Is Your Elevator Speech Ready? *

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

How can it be ready if I don’t know what it is?  Imagine you’ve just stepped on an elevator with someone who doesn’t know you are a passionate Virginia Master Naturalist (or any volunteer service you work in).  The average attention span is just about 30 seconds before minds start wandering, so you may only have 30+ seconds to make a powerful first impression.  Think of this time as if you are going on an elevator ride from Floor 1 to Floor 5.  You have that sliver of time to open the door to educate.  It’s about being prepared to recruit new volunteers for our chapter or for your favorite service project. To recruit to our chapter, have the potential volunteer sign up for our newsletter on our website or write to [email protected].

Your pitch can include your passion about volunteering, statistics, storytelling, and an invitation to future opportunities.  Here’s a worksheet to walk you through the process.  Answer all 8 questions and you could have the basis for your elevator speech.  Put it all together – say it out loud just to yourself.  Practice it.  Practice saying it to others.  Time yourself.  Know it.  Have it in your “volunteer recruitment  toolbox.” Be ready to talk.  One volunteer who worked in Fairfax County’s Invasive Management Area program dressed as an oak tree draped with an invasive vine and died dramatically at a Halloween Party.   They created their own “elevator” opportunity!

If you are not able to answer a question today, this is a sign that you need to do some additional preparation when that next elevator speech opportunity pops up!  We suggest that you reflect on your experiences, impact and accomplishments.  Develop several possible answers so that you have the greatest chance for turning an opportunity into a new volunteer the next time those elevator doors open.

Here are some examples of members’ elevator speeches.  Add yours to the comment section at the bottom of this article.

1) My name is Marilyn.  I am a certified Virginia Master Naturalist, currently serving as Past President of the Fairfax chapter.  I manage a volunteer corps of more than 250 members on a mission to provide natural resource education, citizen science and stewardship to protect Fairfax’ natural resources.

If I need to elaborate, I say:  We recruit, develop and enable our members so they can support the natural resource projects of our sponsors and partners.  This includes projects like invasive plant management, litter cleanups, collecting data on pollinators or birds, leading nature walks or advising hometowns on landscaping for wildlife.

2) I’m Janet. I am a Virginia Master Naturalist. I’m a volunteer who’s been trained to educate the public about nature in our area, collect data for environmental research and take care of our area’s natural resources. What do I do? I’m a floater and have done a little of everything. I counted Burrowing Owls in still photos for the Global Owl Project, counted invertebrates in streams, read stories to children at a nature center and played Mrs. Claus there, removed invasive plants, grew wild celery sea grass and planted it, served on our board, and currently monitor a Bluebird Trail. I love the variety of service I can provide to care for our planet home!

*This article is adopted from Volunteer Fairfax’s Webinar: Teaching Your Volunteers the Elevator Speech, Presentation by Susan Sanow, Volunteer Fairfax[email protected]