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Black and White Elevator

The Elevator Pitch

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Author: Russ Carpenter (adapted from activities by Christine Alfano, Patti Hanlon-Baker)

Class: PWR 2

Activity brief description:  The “elevator pitch” is a concise, well-rehearsed statement that average strangers (people who don’t know your subject) could understand.  The idea is that you could make the “pitch” quickly to small groups (one or two people).  The pitches are deigned to be adapted on the fly to the feedback of your audience.  In the version attached, students prepare their pitches in one session and pitch their project at a mixer with another class in the next session. Alternatively, this works well as a good low stakes speaking exercise where students pitch to their fellow classmates within one class session.

Schedule: Week 2, 3, 4 or 5 (This works well after students have a topic.  It helps students really hone their research problem in preparation for their proposal.  It also helps students refine their focus and get useful audience feedback about their project as they work on the research paper/presentation.)

Activity length: This activity can happen within 50 minutes during one class or be spread out over a longer time in two class sessions.  The version in the handout is based on a two class session model.

Activity goals:

  1. To help students understand and frame their research problem by addressing their pitch to a small group.
  2. To help students to think about how to translate scholarly discourse into public discourse.
  3. To help students see how they can adapt to audiences.  In this case based on the ongoing feedback during the pitch.
  4. To encourage students to see how moving between different communicative modes (speaking and writing) helps with invention and style.

Activity details:  See the handout.

Additional notes: Here’s how I break down the activity during class time:

Day one:

  • 5 minutes to go over the activity
  • 10 to 15 minutes to draft answers to prompts
  • 5 to 10 minutes to practice the pitch with another person
  • 5 minutes for revision

Day Two:

  • 30 to 35 minutes to pitch to at least five other students.
  • 10 to 15 minutes to reflect on the experience.  Past discussion have highlighted how their pitch evolved throughout as they gave it multiple times to different groups and their experience with hearing other pitches.

This activity was originally featured as an Activity of the Week in winter 2014.