Delivering a Killer Knowledge Management Elevator Speech - Avoid These 6 Fatal Errors!
KM Elevator Speeches - 6 Fatal Errors
If you do a quick Google search you can certainly come up with discussions regarding the need for a Knowledge Management Elevator Speech. And you may even find some good examples to "repurpose" for your own usage. But when I'm asked about delivering a KM elevator speech one particular question comes bubbling to the top each time -- "I think that I have a good one, but how do I know if it's going to achieve the right results?"
Unfortunately the only way that you'll ever know if your KM elevator speech is a "good one" or not, is when you deliver it. If it's a good one, then hopefully you will have achieved the right results. Having said, after having delivered thousands of KM elevator speeches, I think that there are a handful of important considerations to keep in mind, to help ensure that your own KM elevator speech doesn't end in a free-fall (that's what might happen on a really bad day in the elevator).
Goal of a KM Elevator Speech
First things first -- before you even identify your potential "target" for your elevator speech you need to determine what your goal is. That sounds simple, but it's not. You might think that your goal is to secure funding for the KM program, but it's not. And if you don't understand that, you're more likely to free fall than not. A KM elevator speech is a technique used to help someone understand what KM is and why KM is important to them and the organization. And based upon that an effective KM elevator speech will provide just enough information to give your "target" a strong sense of what you're talking about and want to know more. That is in fact the goal of a KM elevator speech -- to generate interest for the NEXT discussion. Nothing more, nothing less.
With that in mind I've identified SIX key considerations (read that as potential problems and probable fatal errors) for your KM elevator speech:
#1 Pea or Not to Pea (and that is not a question)
We've all no doubt long ago heard of "WIIFM" -- the "what's in it for me factor." But I think that concept doesn't really hit the critical point and so I'd like you to consider, Pea or Not to Pea. I'd like you to imagine your manager/boss KM elevator speech target as someone who is walking around with a large metal colander affixed to the top of his or her head -- sitting upright, not on their head like a helmet. Upright. Yeah, literally think of that image, right now. Okay. Now take one very old, very hard, shriveled up pea and toss it into the colander. And then imagine your manager/boss/target walking around with that hard pea rolling around in that colander. Do you hear the sound, the racket that it would make? Excellent. So there you are, approaching your elevator speech victim...who has that noisy pea rolling around. And your goal then should be all about giving them a reason to stop making their noise and instead start listening to you (and your noise). That pea, to your manager/boss/target, is their critical issue. The one that is always, and I mean always, rolling around in their thoughts. They seem to be oblivious to the rest of the world because the sound of that pea is louder than all else.
So here you are with your KM elevator speech, hoping to give them a reason to cease making that racket and instead listen to you. Do you now understand the critical need for whatever you're about to say needing to actually addresses that pea, the thing that was on their mind a moment ago? Good. So make sure you know what their "pea" (problem or issue or concern) is -- for whoever you're targeting for that particular elevator speech. You'd better be addressing that need or they're going to simply start the racket back up and if they do, you've lost them. And this is decidedly different than a WIIFM. A WIIFM is nice, warm, fuzzy and promises to keep you toasty on a cold winter night.
Addressing their pea might just possibly provide your KM elevator speech target with the first opportunity to believe that someone, anyone, can help address their need. In short, help them to understand exactly how KM can improve their day, week, month, fiscal year.
#2 Land Mines
A land mine is an explosive device concealed under or on the ground designed to destroy enemy targets that pass over or near the land mine. The critical issue with a land mine is that failure to be aware of their location in advance often can have fatal results. Dealing with the land mines for your KM elevator speech are all about recognizing that there are some things that if discussed at the wrong time or in the wrong manner can cause the same fatal problem. The goal in dealing with the potential landmines for your KM elevator speech is to know in advance where they are and what they are so that you can clear a safe path for your discussion. I'm talking about the organizational politics. You need a good situational awareness of those managerial "hot buttons" that can derail your elevator speech and then either avoid them altogether or be prepared to face them head on. So to avoid those organizational land mines it is important to keep abreast of key organizational issues, and have a good sense of how those politics might either impact or influence your potential KM elevator speech target.
#3 Weasel Words
These are words and phrases that can create an impression that isn't necessarily accurate, convey specific meaning, or are vague or even ambiguous. An example of this can be seen in advertisements that promise "savings up to 50%" which doesn't necessarily mean that any particular savings may be offered (as ZERO could be included to be an amount "up to" that 50%). We all have long since become quite good at recognizing those ads as attempts to lure us through the door, and so we simply pass most of them by.
When delivering your KM elevator speech you should avoid those ambiguous statements that sound like you're not promising anything at all, and instead back your claims with factual information regarding actual accomplishments or benefits to the organization. Yes, that does mean that you need to do your homework prior to attempting to deliver a KM elevator speech....but to be blunt, if you don't right now, right this very moment, have a good understanding of specific quantifiable benefits of successful Knowledge Management -- well, you're simply not ready to deliver any KM elevator speech.
#4 Buzzword Bingo
This is what happens when someone attempts to cover or discuss a topic while including seemingly never ending strings of organizational "buzz words." Buzzword bingo became popular within the workplace by workers who grew tired of predictable references to either out of date business practices or a usage of cliche business terms by those who seem to lack any real understanding of the concepts behind the terms. Buzzword bingo was popularized by the Dilbert comic strip and was the subject of one episode of "The Office." Don't engage in buzzword bingo.
Within a KM elevator speech, buzzword bingo begins the moment you try to include what you believe are "key words" that may (or may not) be important to management and they're often included because of a mistaken belief that by simply mentioning those buzzwords that management will then be drawn to the message like moths to a light. Unless of course your potential elevator speech target recognizes it for what it is and simply tunes your pitch out as another fine example of buzzword hyping. That sinking feeling experienced at that moment is elevator speech "free fall." Again, don't engage in buzzword bingo (and try not to be "buzzword compliant" or use "loaded language" -- and if you aren't familiar with either of those, Google can help with that).
#5 Fighting Words
These are words or phrases that when used can provoke a strongly negative response from a listener, and are often associated with acts of violence and hatred. Fighting words are usually intended to provoke the listener to have a reaction to the speaker. In a KM elevator speech you may evoke a strongly negative response if you make a statement which causes your target to then feel compelled to defend that very issue. For example, you state that "our search capabilities are completely broken and worthless here but KM would fix that." Fighting words, especially if the target happens to either be the individual responsible for the repository or simply doesn't understand what you mean by "broken." A better approach might be to state your case as: "I believe that we're not taking full advantage of our search capabilities and I have some thoughts on how we might improve upon that." Or, "We have a lot of organizational knowledge that is about to leave out the door but I have some ideas on how we can retain that and in turn ensure that we remain competitive in our marketplace." Those examples would hopefully induce a desire to continue a thoughtful conversation rather than to invoke a desire to "defend turf." Words have meaning and this is especially true when you hurl fighting words at your KM elevator speech target.
#6 Doughnut Effect
This happens when you provide so much information so that they feel overwhelmed (and of course then tune you out), causing their eyes to simply "glaze over" (hence, like a glazed doughnut). To be clear, this is not the time for introducing the concept of drinking from a fire house using a tiny cup but is instead the time for a leisurely sip from a water fountain (refreshing, meets that need, leaves you feeling quenched, but not water-logged). You need to ease your target into the KM pool, and not throw them into the deep end to see if they can keep up with you. You need to go slowly, provide clear indications of what you're trying to tell them so that they can then stop and sniff the flowers along the way -- catching up to you only as they are ready. You're the KM'er. This isn't new to you. You know the lingo, the concepts. Hopefully, right? Your target needs to develop an appreciation for what it is that you're trying to convey.