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The elevator speech—a brief, persuasive description of a trend or organization that is designed to pique the interest of the listener—is a basic communications tool for New Urbanism.
New Urbanism is broad and multidisciplinary, and the term is not immediately understood by most people. An elevator speech should be positive and jargon-free.
Elevator pitches are mostly useful in social occasions, but occasionally they come in handy in elevators. Here’s one that worked between the tenth and eighteenth floors of a high-rise hotel in Dallas in response to the question: What is New Urbanism? “It’s about building great places for everybody. We are planners, architects, urban designers, developers, public officials, and others who design and build downtowns, walkable centers, mixed-use towns and neighborhoods.”
From communications specialists in this trend, here are some other examples:
• “I make walkable places legal again.”
• “It’s about enabling the great historic places that were built before World War II to be built again.”
• “We’re the national nonprofit group who tries to make their city or neighborhood more walkable and greener for everybody. We get everybody together to learn from each other: Designers, builders, bike advocates, mayors, etc.”
• “CNU is the largest and oldest organizing body of urban planners, architects, designers, engineers, advocating for walkable, mixed-use, neighborhood development. The Congress is a time together to share and celebrate each other’s ideas and insights so we can go back home to make our cities more walkable, sustainable, and healthy.”
• “We build sustainable places that are compact, mixed-use, and where people love to walk. We make streets safer for the young and the old and let people spend more quality time with their families and less with their steering wheels.”
• “We are a group of urban planners, engineers, architects, citizen activists, etc. We work to make walkable neighborhoods legal again, places like this neighborhood, or like (NAME A COMPACT NEIGHBORHOOD NEARBY).”
• “It’s a generous organization of architects, planners, developers and community activists who want to create lovable places for everyone in neighborhoods, cities, and (SPECIFIC PLACE)”
• “We’re an organization that builds places that people love. We convene architects, transportation experts, and even citizen activists to build places that are lovable, safe, welcoming, and stand the test of time.”
• “We are about creating healthier people, places, and communities.”
All of these speeches conjure up positive images and some are intriguing. They focus on walkability, neighborhoods, and the collaborative nature of New Urbanism. The briefest is a mere six words—but those words carry a lot of meaning. However you frame this trend, have a pitch that is positive, concise, and on the tip of you tongue. And be ready for follow-up questions and a longer conversation.