This assignment is especially effective if you assign it just after students write abstracts. Comparing the four parts of an abstract to the four parts of an elevator story (also known as an elevator speech or elevator pitch) helps students to identify the consistencies and differences between the genres and their audience’s expectations.

Guide to Oral/Signed Communication in Writing Classrooms


To continue to distill your project to its essential parts; to practice a new genre that is increasingly popular in academic settings; to practice public speaking in a supportive environment

Key Terms

claim; significance; rhetorical situation


  1. Read a little about the form of the elevator story, a common business genre, but also popular among doctoral candidates of all disciplines, especially those in STEM. The idea is that you have to tell the story of your idea or project in the amount of time that it takes people to ride from the bottom to the top of a building in an elevator, during a conference, say. This short blog entry from Nature discusses crafting elevator stories for different audiences.
  2. Write, practice, and bring to class a 20-second elevator story of your research project. You’ll deliver this in class.
  3. Include the following elements below, in this order, and make sure your talk flows seamlessly.
Key Parts
  • Hook related to topic —Grab your listeners’ attention.
  • Contribution –What’s new about your idea?
  • Method –How will you do it?
  • Significance –Why/how will it matter?