Several weeks ago, a radio-host asked listeners to call in if they had ever met a president. I was only half listening but thought “how often does that really happen?” Fast forward a few days Wednesday March 5th, 2014 President Obama is scheduled to speak at Central Connecticut State University to give a speech about raising the minimum wage. Tickets were free but between work and not wanting to waste a beautiful day standing in line (after work); I decided I’d listen over the radio.
On the 5th I had a scheduled meeting with co-workers at the YWCA in New Britain. Before heading to the YWCA, I had agreed to meet a colleague for a work/lunch. We went to Café Beauregard – a new café across from the Courthouse. My colleague and I got our lunch and settled down. There was a young couple who kept looking back at us, about 10 minutes after we sat down a gentleman came up and said: “As you know, the President is in town. He will be here for lunch in ten minutes. You have two options, you can leave now, or you can stay. If you stay, you cannot call, text, or email while here and you cannot leave until he does.” Clearly, we stayed.
We were about to have an impromptu lunch with the President. Mind you, the entire restaurant is six small tables. In addition to President of the United States and the Governors of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont came to lunch as well. Our ability to work was gone - we decided we'd meet again a different day. Shortly, we saw the cars roll up outside and suddenly heard the President and New England Governors order their lunches. My colleague and I were the only patrons in the restaurant (the other two were the owners daughter and boyfriend – count them if you wish). Before sitting down to his lunch, President Obama made rounds to each of us to shake our hand and say hello. This is where everyone needs to have an elevator speech ready. You never know who you are going to meet or when, but when you have a clear understanding of who you are and what you do (in work, life, love…) you can articulate relevance and importance at the drop of a hat. President Obama walked over, shook my hand and asked "So what brings you to this Cafe?" In 30 seconds or less I explained who I was, where I worked, the importance of the work I am doing, and how it related to the work he is doing. I thanked him for coming to town. He offered to take a picture which of course we gladly accepted and then he sat down with the Governors for lunch.
During this time, each of the Governor’s said hello and shook our hands as well. I was able to extend a personal invitation to Governor Dannel Malloy to attend an upcoming event which was an added bonus for the day.
During lunch, the media came in for an interview. Because we were sitting behind, I was in the background of all pictures. Note to self: when there is media present, don’t be on social media, even if it is texting a colleague at the local paper to come down, or posting the experience in real-time. The gentleman spoke with the media, ate their lunch, talked about family and got ready to embark. When they had finished lunch, there were final photos and waves to the cheering crowds before heading off to Central Connecticut State University.
For days (weeks, months really) people kept asking me “how was it to meet the President?” and were in awe of the coincidence. It took me a few days to fully process the interaction and importance of the event. Frankly, meeting the Governors was just as important if not more so than the President. They are part of our local government, creating change here with and for us. I was called out months later at a peer exchange as a case example for “why it is important to have your elevator speech ready”. What we learned collectively is that not many people know what an elevator speech is, let alone have one at the ready. If you are in the mix, here is your opportunity to create yours:
Creating your elevator speech:
- In less than 30 seconds – approximately 90 words or 8 sentences
- Who are you (name, place of work, position, relevance for being THERE)
- Give a very specific purpose or reason for your efforts
- Provide a solution, advantages for working with you, support you can provide…
- Insert a small vignette of a specific example
- Give a call for action (the “ask”)
- Use jargon or acronyms
- Assume knowledge or understanding
- Ramble on
- Practice, rehearse, try it out on friends and strangers
- Create different versions for various situations
- Be creative – be memorable
- Be prepared for questions, be prepared to be brushed off
(p.s. The Korean Beef Sandwich at Cafe Beauregard is that good)