The answers about elevator speech

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Elevator speech, elevator and elevated speech- are there any connections?

 Answers from Elena Ornig

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Just recently, an entrepreneur was teaching us about “elevator speech” and a couple of things he gave as an explanation didn’t sit comfortably enough with me. He didn’t mention anything about an elevator and didn’t explain where the term “elevator speech” came from.  He also based his time explanation for an “elevator speech” by aligning it (incorrectly in my opinion) with TV commercials, a subject of which I have first-hand knowledge. This is not just about him, but about many speakers who introduce you to a subject without clarity of what it is and where it came from. It makes one wonder just how well they really know their subject.

As very many articles have been written about “elevator speech” and published on the Internet over the last few years, there must be a definitive explanation of where the term comes from and its relationship to an elevator or maybe even to elevated speech. I decided to investigate this for my own peace of mind.

Before starting a search on the Internet I always first go to traditionally published dictionaries to check the key words. The closest dictionary on my shelves, “The Oxford English Reference Dictionary”, revealed the following:

elevate – bring to higher position; raise; lift or hold up- sufficient for now.

elevation – the process of elevating or being elevated; a raised area- understandable.

elevator – a hoisting (lifting) machine; a place for lifting and storing quantities- comprehensible.  By the way, the first elevator was devised (build) by E.G. Otis in 1852.

speech – act of speaking; formal address (statement) or manner of speaking- quite clear.

speech-writer – a person employed to write speech– added this one just in case.

With my initial word search complete, my next step is the Internet where I type,”what means elevated speech” into Google search. Precisely 0.16 sec. later, Google gives me 1,980,000 results to choose from. Wow!

What have I found?

Found: explaining literary terms: “Elevated language or elevated style: formal, dignified language; it often uses more elaborate figures of speech…; Elevated language is used to give dignity to a hero. Great, interesting to know!

1880–85; derisive imitation of affected, pseudo-elevated speech – that caught my eyes!

Found claims: “Poetry is elevated speech”, and later, “Poetry sometimes just uses elevated speech”. Who to believe? Not my focus right now.

Found some suggestions that elevated speech means to “proclaim” instead of just “say”.

Found: “the ancients viewed song as elevated speech…”

Found in psychiatric terminology: elevated mood (exaggerated feeling) or euphoria or elation.

Finally I typed into Google: “elevated speech is”.

From more than 2,000,000 results the exact phrase was found only twice.  I simply took liberty of cutting and pasting: “elevated speech is properly the prerogative of the gods…”, “elevated speech is full of euphemistic expressions…” I guess this is enough help from the Internet for now.

So far I have concluded there is no connection between “elevated speech” and “elevator speech”. I guess I will soon dig deeper into what precisely is elevated speech; but what I am really looking for is the term “elevator speech” and its origin.

Found: JB-Founders-Forum-Elevated-Speech – “John Fouert spoke about the need to have an “elevator speech” in your back pocket when someone inquires about subrogation (legal term for claim)…you need to be able to deliver your canned message in the time it takes to ride up the elevator.

So, did John Fouert, from the insurance industry, come up with the term “elevator speech” based on his analogy to the elevator or was his analogy made on an existing term? Is this the connection to the “elevator speech”? Just a few seconds while you ride up or down in the elevator sounds so good to refer to, but the origin for the term “elevator speech” and “ who came up with the term is still debatable. This remains the conclusion of many inquisitive researchers.

"Finding answers"

This remains the conclusion of many inquisitive researchers.

Found: “one fairly well-known example of a clear and concise method of getting one’s point across is the so-called “elevator speech”. The origin of the term comes from the notion that you meet important people in elevators – Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron). Thank you Dr. Luis, this is a very respectable information source in my book.

Still I couldn’t just let it go. I needed more confirmation. Maybe I could find out when the term was first mentioned on the Internet (by date). Guess what I found. The oldest publications by date providing an explanation of “elevator speech” were: “Guide on the Side – The Elevator Speech – It’s There for You, by Marie Wallace Published on June 30, 1998. What is interesting – there is a clear connection to the elevator and this is the proof:  “…you need to explore the elevator speech. Most people ride an elevator several times a day. Each ride is a 30 second (more or less)…” – as stated in this article, and, “Elevating Your Business with your Elevator Speech, by Craig Harrison”. This article first appeared in the November, 1999 edition of City News, the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) newsletter for Northern California. Again, it states: “In the time it takes to ride an elevator with a stranger (16-seconds) you have the opportunity to not only make a great first impression…”

Gosh! It feels so good when you can understand something much clearer. The “elevator speech” clearly has a strong connection to the elevator; but I still wonder: “which came first, the analogy or the term?”

One thing is for sure, that recent suggestion by the entrepreneur relating the short time “elevator speech” to TV commercials does not hold true; I should have known better for I worked in television. To prove my point here are some facts: the first TV commercials in USA were only a few seconds long. The length increased over time to 1 minute and after 1960s started to shrink again due to higher competition, new forms of advertising and development of new technologies.

Now I have cleared up this question for myself and my readers, I can move further to investigate,” What is the core of elevator speech?”

I will do my research and write my own explanation. If you are still interested you will find this article by its name: What is the core or essence of elevator speech?

Or you can read helpful article: “How to make your elevator speech memorable?”

My warmest regards,
Visit Elena’s profile on Pinterest.


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Written by Elena Ornig

Managing Director of Publishing Company "Julia Sophistique Pty Ltd". Committee member of Australian Computer Association GC Chapter. Member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Member of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland. Member of the IT Forum Gold Coast. Sponsor of the Helensvale Writers' Group, Gold Coast. Committee member of the Gold Coast Writers Association Honored VIP Member of STANFORD WHO'S WHO in America. Publisher, writer and blogger.


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