The Elevator Speech – No Second Chances To Make A First Impression

by Jake Valentine, MS-3

As an aspiring emergency medicine physician, I was awestruck to have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Steven Stack at the most recent Texas Medical Association meeting in Austin. Dr. Steven Stack is the first emergency physician to serve as President of the American Medical Association. I gave him my best firm handshake and proclaimed “Hi Dr. Stack, I’m Jake. Pleasure to meet you”. He returned the pleasantry and swiftly moved on to chat with other more familiar faces who were now forming a circle around this emergency medicine rockstar.

That’s it. That’s the end of the story. Pretty lame, right?

Agreed.  “I am so lame” is the same feeling I had later that day when talking to my mentor Dr. Angela Siler Fisher. I told her I’d met Dr. Stack and her face lit up; “WOW! That is so cool! I can’t believe you networked with the president of the AMA. Way to embrace my leadership advice – tell me all about your conversation.”

Me: “Umm… I just said hello and then we shook hands”

Fisher: “You’re telling me you had the chance to network with the leader of the most powerful physician association in the world and you wimped out!?”

I hadn’t thought of it that way. In fact, I hadn’t thought of it as a networking experience at all. I was so intimidated that I hadn’t even recognized that this was a missed opportunity to make a valuable career connection.

How often do we pass by on networking opportunities because ‘the setting wasn’t right’, or the person we wanted to make contact with didn’t offer to exchange information? How many times have you walked past someone in the hallway, wanting to say “hey-im-a-superawesome-upandcomingmedstudent-lookingforamentor” but all that comes out is “hi” and a head nod?

This is why the ‘elevator speech’ is so important- there are no second chances to make a great first impression. Each MaveRx meeting starts out with everyone introducing him/herself and practicing their 20 second introduction. “Hi, my name is Jake Valentine, I’m a 3rd year student at BCM going into emergency medicine. I am director of operations for the Texas Two Step – the largest ever medical student run CPR initiative. We’ve trained over 4,000 people with the help of 600 volunteers. I’m also interested in medical education and simulation. Let me give you my contact info – I’d love to connect and work with you.”

What makes a great elevator speech? Look closely at the example. It answers, in sequence, “who are you”, “why are you talking to me”, and “why should I talk to you”. Most importantly, it puts you in the driver’s seat for establishing a follow-up correspondence. When you offer your contact information, you are inviting the other person to participate in the contact exchange and you avoid the classically awkward “can I have your number?” dynamic that evokes painful memories of rejection from your high-school crush.

Last piece of advice on exchanging contact information: have a shareable contact card in your phone. Make it easy for your connections to remember who you are and how to contact you. Your contact card should have your photo, phone number, personal/permanent email address, and school email address. You should be able to share this contact with a simple command (once you add yourself as a contact, click on your name. If you have an iPhone, it will be under “share contact”, but a similar feature is available on Android devices as well). A simple follow-up message along the lines of “Hey (name), it was great meeting you at (event/location). Looking forward to learning more about (project, program, profession, etc)” works well.

Now practice your elevator speech, make that contact card, and start networking like a Pro!


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