Everyday Advocacy Challenge: Week 2 Reflections

The inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge entered its second week on September 8 with this Take Action Tuesday prompt:

Write an elevator speech using value-based language.

Here’s what our EAC cohort members had to say—in six words or less—about tackling the Week 2 challenge:

  • “Validating.”
  • “Finding phrase more difficult than expected.”
  • “Hard at first, then easier.”
  • “Fun: I got a bit silly.”
  • “Easier than I expected.”
  • “Addicting! I wrote for multiple audiences!”
  • “Fun to grab attention.”
  • “Challenging to find an authentic voice.”
  • “Thought-provoking. Getting to the essentials.”
  • “Passion + creativity = empowering!”
  • “Less is more but difficult!”
  • “Making refinements, getting easier to say.”

For Matt McLain, the EAC Week 2 prompt proved a great opportunity to answer the question, “What do you do?”

Matt writes:

The elevator speech is the perfect fit for those golden moments when you find yourself with an opportunity to tell others about the great work libraries do and to tell it quickly and succinctly. If your elevator speech is written correctly, you will leave your contact with a desire to hear more, even if he/she doesn’t have time right at that moment.

Writing a value-based elevator speech helped me think about advocacy in a way that communicates the core of what I do. I can get buried in the details of everything that is in my head, and I get excited and want to share all of the information at once. But a short elevator speech is a perfect way to begin that conversation. It conveys essential information that is important to the person to whom I am speaking and allows him/her to ask questions about the details.

The materials on the Everyday Advocacy website, particularly the infographic, really helped me clarify the information I want to convey. The value-based elevator speech formula—“I help [target audience] [verb phrase] at the library so that [proven/expected positive outcome for target audience]”—is powerful. The simplicity of the formula creates flexibility so I can tailor the message for my audience.

Here are a few examples:

  • I help our customers learn to use downloadable ebooks and audiobooks at the library so that they have a new set of skills and ability to use all of the library’s resources.
  • I help children develop early learning skills at the library so that they can enter school ready to read and cultivate a desire for lifelong learning.
  • I help provide individuals in our community the opportunity build common ground with each other through programming at the library so that each person begins to believe that our similarities are greater than our differences.
  • The library is a bridge to help community partners find other partners to work on common goals so that they can make a greater difference using fewer overall resources.
  • I help my staff work in a positive environment at the library so that they can use their strengths to provide excellent customer service for our patrons.

Perhaps the most important aspect of writing the elevator speech is the opportunity it provided me to think about how to communicate what I do. I am surrounded by so many great resources, so many wonderful people, and so many good things that I want to tell everyone about everything. Starting with the essentials is a great way to organize my thoughts. Creating the elevator speech has gotten me excited about the next time someone asks, “What do you do?”

Matt McLain is Manager of Salt Lake County (Utah) Library System’s South Jordan Library and co-chair of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. Matt is a member of the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge cohort, an 18-member volunteer group convening from September 1-October 20, 2015.


  1. Judy Lasco

    Great post! I think when I tell people I am a children’s librarian they picture just fun and games (which it is!). But I like the idea of having a quick sentence or two prepared to explain how important early literacy is to a child’s success in life (and it’s fun too!).

  2. Matt McLain

    That is something that happens to me, too. People think librarians just sit around and read all the time. Sometimes, it’s even broader…like, “Oh, aren’t libraries dead yet?” or “What is the future of libraries now that we have Google?” One of the thoughts I had while considering elevator speeches is these casual conversations. I’m going to spend some time creating an elevator speech for those occasions!

  3. Kendra Jones

    Matt, this exercise did the same thing for me. It really helps sort out all the details about my work that flood into my brain. Thanks for sharing your speeches!

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