written by Robyn T. Braley

How do you explain your Rotary Club in 45 seconds or less? The Rotary story has so many parts that telling it in 4 to 5 sentences is next to impossible. 

But there’s the rub! People are accustomed to receiving information in short bytes. If you rant on with no end in sight, the listener’s eyes will glaze over, and they’ll quickly excuse themselves to do whatever will end their torture! 

An elevator speech (eSpeach) introduces Rotary in a way that leads to further conversation. It should pique the interest of potential club members and prompt them to want more information. It is a short synopsis of your club explaining what you do.

The ideal speech will accomplish all of this in 45 seconds or less. In written form, it should only be 75 to 100 words.

Rotary friendships happen through relationships. Relationships begin through conversations. A Rotary elevator speech can be the start of a long friendship. An elevator speech can be used …

  • For social media bios
  • As an introduction on your website
  • As a lead for booking speakers
  • As an introduction for pitching stories to the media
  • As a pullout for brochures
  • As a conversation opener with funding or supply partners.
  • Many more

Who Should Do The Work

Depending on the size of your club, I suggest forming a sub-committee made up of representatives from your membership committee, communications team, and a past or incoming President who can represent your board.

Step 1 - How does it Work?

To explain how an elevator speech works, I use this illustration. Imagine waiting patiently for an elevator in the building lobby when you spot a person you’ve been trying to talk to about Rotary. 

The pursuit has taken several weeks and failed because their executive assistant is an all-star gatekeeper. In other words, they’ve built a brick wall around them.

This is your chance! You stealthily follow them into the elevator as you try to appear cool and not creepy. 

Now is the time. The two of you are alone in the car.

You exchange pleasantries between the ground level and the first floor. You transition to a free-flow conversation in which you subtly introduce Rotary between the second and fourth floors. From the fourth to the sixth floor, you ask a probing question about their knowledge of Rotary.

The goal is to “seal the deal” by the 7th floor. That usually means exchanging business cards with the promise to send more information about your club. Occasionally, they may accept an invitation to attend your next meeting.

Step 2 - How to Make it Unique

In the corporate world, creating a new logo, choosing corporate colours, writing slogans, mission statements, and advertising hooks doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Creating an effective eSpeech with meaning and purpose is accomplished by following a process.

Write a Club Profile

Create a one-page profile. Begin by writing down apparent questions that a non-Rotarian might ask, like where you meet, when and how often, and the cost.

  • What do members care about?
  • What are some of the organizations you support locally and in the world?
  • Are there options for volunteer service?
  • What are the benefits of being a Rotarian?
  • What does Rotary mean to you?

Now, write answers to each question using plain language. And the strict rule for many Rotarians; no acronyms. Ever!

Write a description of your club members. What careers are represented in your group? What is the average age? What is the ethnic and gender mix? Is the tone of your meetings always serious, or do you also have fun? Is there a social dynamic?

Your Club Story

Write the answers in paragraph form. You will have the beginning of your club’s story. The finished profile could be the beginning of a brand book for your club. More about that in a future post.

Once the document has been polished and edited, highlight key sentences and phrases. These will form the basis of your elevator speech.

Step 3 – The Finished Product

Final eSpeech

The Greenvale Rotary Club is a group of like-minded professionals passionate about making a difference in our community and worldwide. We are business and community leaders who are motivated to help people. We are diverse and live by a clear set of values. We also like to have fun.

Quick Facts

If the elevator speech works as intended, you will receive questions. Including a list of quick facts will help members stay on point.

  1. We are a group of like-minded professionals
  2. We meet on Thursdays at 7 am in the Holiday Inn
  3. We are diverse, inclusive, and welcoming
  4. We like to laugh, have fun, and form positive relationships
  5. We serve people in our communities and around the world
  6. We support projects involving children, youth, and families.
  7. We support homelessness, addiction recovery, literacy, health, clean water
  8. We offer a variety of volunteer experiences and opportunities
  9. Weekly meetings feature speakers about topics that matter
  10. We adhere to a clear set of values and principles known as the 4-way test
  11. We hear excellent speakers representing a variety of topics and perspectives
  12. We have 75 active members, with an average attendance of 55 at each meeting

Practical Application

It took me time to develop a speech for my company that rolled off my tongue and didn’t sound rehearsed. I’ve used it as an introduction during cold calls, emails, business receptions, social events, funerals, weddings, conferences, concerts, church foyers, and Rotary luncheons—and yes, even in elevators.

One time, I followed up with a prospect I had called on for about 8 years. His office administrator was a champion gatekeeper, making it impossible to speak directly to him.

I called in January only to discover the old administrator had moved on. The new one, probably by mistake, put me through to his voicemail.

I began the recording by explaining who I was and followed that with my elevator speech. Imagine my astonishment when I received a call about 3 months later from the gentleman.

He had saved my recorded elevator speech. We worked with his company for about 7 years until he sold it.

Step 4 – How to Make It Live

Give each member a copy of the speech and quick facts. Please encourage them to make copies to keep in their office, their home, and their car. Keep them handy, as you never know when you will need them.

Ask them to practice saying it out loud. Find a spouse, grandchild, or friend to listen, ask questions, and provide feedback. Your speech will become a living, breathing thing. Edit, polish, slash and brutally cut. Most of all, personalize it. 

Performance Tips

  1. Use your acting voice. Be interesting and engaging
  2. Never sound rehearsed or sing-songy
  3. Slow your speech. No machine gunning
  4. Speak slightly louder than normal
  5. Inject energy, enthusiasm and passion
  6. Be persuasive

Be aware of your body language and make positive eye contact throughout the conversation. Finally, smile and be warm and engaging. Be the person your prospect would like to learn more about.

Now, follow your prospect into the elevator, remembering not to appear creepy. Press the close door button and enjoy the ride. 

The End
What do you think? Do you have tips? I want to hear from you. Please comment below.  


Robyn T. Braley is a Rotarian in District 5360. He has served on numerous Club and District committees, including as the P.R. Chair in his District He has also produced major events in the community and in Rotary. He is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. You may contact him at robyn@robyntbraley.com