Imagine you're at your state/province Department of Education building.
You've got a PD session at the top floor and you're just about to hop into the elevator. You hear the "ding", wait for people to step out, and then walk into the empty elevator.
Just as the doors are closing, you hear someone say "hold the door". As you do so, in walks the Secretary/Minister of Education! They go to press the button for the top floor, but see that you've already done so.
You introduce yourself and tell them that you teach physical education. They ask you to tell them about your program to learn more about the value of PE.
It's a 60 second elevator ride to the top floor. What do you say?
Ok, so this is a bit of an absurd situation but I wanted to share it anyway because creating a 60 second elevator pitch for your program – one that is both effective and persuasive – is a powerful reflection exercise.
This is because preparing such a pitch requires you to have a clear understanding of the vision that drives your program, the mission it aims to achieve, and clear examples of how you approach your teaching in ways that are aligned to those goals.
In other words, a physical education program pitch helps you gain clarity in regard to the what, why, and how of your goals.
An effective elevator pitch helps the person you are pitching to see the whole picture of your efforts in as few words as possible.
To deliver such a clear vision, you'll need to zoom way out.
Reflection is a critical component of professional development. It helps us identify loose ends, opportunities for growth, and ways in which we can better align ourselves to the vision we have for this world.
A good practice for professional reflection is to schedule time for "zooming out": engaging in higher-level reflection to see the bigger picture.
Although David Allen uses an airplane analogy to discuss the different levels for reflection, I'm a space nerd and prefer to use a space one.
For teachers engaging in reflection on their teaching, here are the levels that I would invite you to consider:
Reflection is key to gaining clarity, and clarity is essential for effective communication and advocacy.
However you decide to go about it – whether it be a weekly reflection session, annual thinking retreat, or a psychedelic-infused vision quest at Joshua Tree – make reflection a part of your professional growth plan.
It is the only way that you will ever be able to close the gap between where you are now in your teaching and where you want to be. It is also the key to delivering a killer elevator pitch.
Speaking of which, let's dive into that.
An effective elevator pitch communicates three key ideas to your audience:
Aside from being concise (remember: 60s or less!), your pitch should also have the following characteristics:
When you speak with confidence, passion, and clear language, audiences tend to listen. If nothing else, you get to showcase that you are someone worth listening to* and investing in.
*Side note: every person is inherently worthy and deserves to be heard. Unfortunately, many decision-makers based everything they do on, well, decision making. To "decide" literally means "to cut off". If you cannot deliver your pitch in a way that captivates your audience, they may very well cut you off.
Realistically, 90% of the times that you deliver your program pitch will be the intention of simply informing your audience.
I worked in a private school for seven years. Aside from our two annual open house events, we often had potential families visit the school on a regular basis. When they did so, stopping by the gym was always on their tour of the school. This means that, in the middle of teaching, I would have to go over, introduce myself, deliver my pitch, and then get back to teaching my students. It became second-nature for me to be able to step into that headspace and let families know about the purpose and structure of my program.
However, there are times when your pitch has other motives: to persuade decision-makers to increase their support of your program.
In these situations, your ultimate goal is to deliver an "ask": a specific request for support and/or resources that will help you overcome current obstacles that are in the way of you achieving your vision.
Just like your pitch, your ask needs to be planned, practiced, and ready to deliver at all times. It should have all of the same characteristics of your pitch and you need to be able to deliver it with confidence (if you don't ask, you don't get).
Here's the catch: before you get to your ask, there's usually a "follow up" conversation that happens after your pitch. Follow up conversations can be intimidating, because you're basically having your program picked apart by someone who has the power to support or impede its progress.
However, knowing about these follow up conversations and seeing them as a stepping stone towards delivering your ask means that it is worthwhile to prepare for them.
Here are two areas I would invite you to explore, reflect on, and prepare for in the eventuality that a follow up conversation with a decision-maker whose interest you have piqued may occur:
By visualizing the entire journey towards scoring what you need to help your program grow and planning for each step along the way, you can build your capacity for advocacy and successfully persuade decision-makers to support your program.
Ok, before we get to far ahead of ourselves here, let's start at the start: nailing a solid elevator pitch for your program.
To help you practice your program pitch, I am inviting you to:
I recognize that this practice may be uncomfortable for some, but I would like to remind you that growth is uncomfortable. There is no reason to believe that you do not have the capacity to deliver an earth-shaking program pitch and I hope this post helps you unleash all of that power you've got inside of you!