How To Create Your IBD Elevator Speech

Turn A Chance Encounter Into An Opportunity To Educate About IBD

Where will a simple elevator ride take you? It's a metaphor for a few minutes that you might have with someone where you can have their undivided attention to talk with them about IBD. Image © Matej Pribelsky / E+ / Getty Images

Do you have an "elevator speech" ready when someone asks you about your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? If you are interested in IBD advocacy, or educating others about Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, or even if you just want to be more open about your disease, having a little speech prepared is a very good idea.

What Is An Elevator Speech?

The elevator speech, or the "elevator pitch" is so named because it can be given in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

Elevator rides seem to take forever, but really (and this is largely dependent on the size of the building you are in) the typical elevator speech should be given in about 30 seconds. 

The urban legend about elevator speeches is that they originated in old Hollywood. If you worked in a building with a high-level executive, such as a president or CEO, you should always have a sentence or two prepared, in case you rode the elevator with them and they asked you a question. In Hollywood, it would be the premise for a movie: you have 30 seconds to get that executive excited enough about the idea that they would be interested in producing your film. Another story about the elevator speech involves a high-profile CEO of a Fortune 50 company who reportedly asked employees "How have you made the company money?" when he rode the elevator with them. 

It's become a little joke in corporate environments, but the idea is sound.

Being prepared to answer a common question means that you can speak intelligently and show that you have given thought to your answer. You won't be caught unaware and you won't stammer or misspeak.

What Should Be In Your IBD Elevator Speech?

Narrowing down your entire experience with IBD to about 30 seconds may seem a ridiculous oversimplification.

And maybe it is. But what you're really doing here is giving someone enough information about yourself or about IBD that they will either ask you more, learn more on their own, or apply what they've learned to another person they know with IBD or digestive disease.

How you will pare down the volumes you really want to say will depend on your experience with IBD and if you want to take the conversation further. If you're wearing a t-shirt or an awareness bracelet, you might want to bring the conversation around to the advocacy efforts that you support or that you're involved with.

Questions To Get You Started

Here are some questions to consider when preparing your elevator speech:

What is IBD, and how do you prefer to refer to it? Many people have heard the terms "Crohn's disease" or "colitis," but might not be aware of exactly what they are, and how they are different than other conditions. You might want to explain that they are types of digestive diseases.

If you've had surgery, what type of surgery have you had? People with IBD may have any one of a number of different types of surgery, anything from a stricture repair to an ileostomy. If you want to express the severity of IBD, and convey that it is more than just a bad case of diarrhea, mentioning your surgery or surgery in general may help get the point across.

How common is IBD? Sometimes giving the scope of the problem is helpful in getting your point across quickly. It's estimated that about 5 million people around the world live with IBD

Has IBD left you disabled? Because IBD is considered an invisible illness, there can be considerable prejudice when people with IBD are left unable to work. However, people may better understand the issue when presented with a live human in front of them who has been disabled because of illness.

Has IBD affected your family? Of course, IBD affects all families that are touched by it. But how exactly each family is changed by the experience is unique, and you might want to describe your particular situation.

How You Raise Awareness Is Up To You

Once you've thought about what IBD has meant to your life, and what you'd like to tell perfect strangers about IBD, you can draft your elevator speech. You might want to even practice it, try it out on a few friends or in front of the mirror. As you become practiced with your speech, you'll have more confidence when you deliver it. You might even decide in the end that you don't want a formal speech, but instead tailor what you say to the circumstance. The goal is to not be caught off-guard ​and be able to speak intelligently about IBD so that a chance encounter leaves you feeling empowered, and someone else more educated.

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