I am sure most of you have heard of the popular phrase “the elevator pitch.” Regardless of which context you heard it in, chances are the implication of the phrase was to ensure you are as succinct with your thoughts as possible when you speak. The phrase the “elevator pitch” stems from the idea of getting your point across to someone when you are both in an elevator together. Unless you are in a really tall building, chances are you won’t be trapped in an elevator for more than 30 seconds.  Of course, this does not mean the word is always used in the literal sense at all times. The Toastmasters platform understands this and provides times for each project or speech. 

Gaining your audiences’ attention and keeping them engaged are two different things. There is increased discourse about the fact that not only is the human attention span limited, but also decreasing. While there are supporting and conflicting research reports on the human attention span, let’s consider our personal attention span. If you are forced to listen to someone for multiple minutes, it can be tough. This is why during talks and presentations, you notice some people in the crowd stealthily yawning and making visibly bored expressions. 

But, what about the times when you’re having a conversation about a topic your audience is interested in. Also, what about the times when your audience finds your presentation engaging. You still need to realize that your people are interested in the content and that does not give you unlimited time to get your point across. While it is important to get your point across in a short and sweet time, it is also important to focus on the essence of what you are conveying. 

If you are working on a prepared speech, it is best to limit yourself to 10 minutes. Within these 10 minutes, you need to make your content as engaging as possible. This way you get your point across before your audience starts losing interest. Alternatively, if you are in conversation, it is best to try to find a balance between listening and speaking to have an engaging conversation. In doing so, limiting your personal talk time to 2 minutes will make sure your listener does not lose interest halfway through the conversation.

The premise of “the elevator pitch” is that humans have a short attention span and you need to get your point across before you lose your audience’s interest. Toastmasters understands this very well and is designed to help us train ourselves to limit our talk time to an allocated time. For example, the featured or prepared speeches section rarely allot more than 10 minutes to a speaker and the table topics encourage speakers to wrap up individual impromptu thoughts within 2 minutes. In the process individuals are trained to respect the time of their listeners and articulate their thoughts within a time that commands the attention of the listeners. 

TM Kriti Panth
Secretary, Professionals Toastmaster Club
Area O2 CGD

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