Health Update Elevator Speech
Last updated: April 2023
When I was in high school, I had surgery on my knee which required I wear a brace over my whole leg. I didn’t know which was worse: the recovery or having to repeatedly tell people what happened. I wanted a t-shirt that said “Injured playing volleyball. Arthroscopic surgery. Recovering great.” so people would stop asking me to tell the same story over and over again.
After being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, I found myself in a similar situation to having a brace on my leg. Concerned friends, family and colleagues would consistently ask how things were going in my battle against cancer. Although I loved knowing of their concern for me, I almost wished I had a t-shirt to explain it to them. Sometimes I found myself caught off guard by the question and would end up giving a short, meaningless answer like “fine.” Other times I’m sure I gave way more information than the person wanted.
As inconsistent as my message was, the responses I got back were equally varied. I think some people were asking just to be polite based upon how they seemed to glaze over as I answered. I swear some didn’t listen to my response at all. At the other end of the spectrum, I had people take a great deal of time and ask lots of deep questions. It was evident these people were genuinely curious, concerned and sympathetic. I couldn’t control the variation of responses, and had no desire to, but I did want to give everyone a consistent message.
The elevator speech
An elevator speech is a short speech prepared to convey an idea quickly; like in the time it takes to ride in an elevator with someone. For instance, if you had an idea you’d like to pitch to a CEO at your company, you could prepare an elevator speech and present it to the CEO the next time you have one or two minutes together with them. This opportunity to give the speech could present itself at a company gathering, while walking to your car, or while sharing an elevator. An effective elevator speech conveys a point succinctly and spurs interest in the hearer.
At some point, I decided I needed an elevator speech on my health status. My speech today goes something like this:
Thanks for asking. I’m still in a deep remission and hoping it lasts for many years. I’m a year out of chemo and my immune system has recently recovered to normal. I’ve been doing a lot of running lately. I’ve recently ran two 5K’s have two more scheduled. I’ve even returned to weightlifting a couple times a week. Overall I’m feeling optimistic, very blessed and strong!
The above speech takes less than 30 seconds to deliver at a casual pace yet is packed with information.
Features of my elevator speech
Here are the 6 features I strive to have in my health update elevator speech and encourage you to adopt:
- Short and Optimistic tone: Yes, that’s two features but I grouped them here for a reason. Let me be very honest, if no one is asking you about your health it’s likely for one of two reasons. One, your answer drones on and on for far too long. Two, you’re being a "Debbie Downer." Short and sweet.
- Honest: You can be honest and remain optimistic. It’s a balance for sure. Even in the direst of circumstances, you can leave each person that asks you about your health feeling lifted or inspired or grateful.
- Context: Some high-level information about of where you are in your cancer fight. People don’t always remember, or may have never heard, information you assume everyone knows. “I’m still in a deep remission.”
- Important facts: Only include the most important facts. If you include too much detail the speech will be too long and people only asking to be polite will regret asking. “Deep remission”, “immune system has recently returned to normal.”
- Recent developments: The speech should change frequently to reflect the latest information in your cancer battle. “Immune system has recently returned to normal”, “recently ran two 5K’s have two more scheduled”, “returned to weightlifting.”
- End with my feelings: Facts and news is great, but I believe people are mostly interested in how you’re feeling. “I’m feeling optimistic, very blessed and strong.”
Have any of you also developed a health update elevator speech? If so, did they help? What elements would you add or subtract from what I proposed here? If you don’t have a speech, I encourage you to try it. I would love to hear your experience in developing and delivering it.
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?
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