The elevator speech

Within 30 minutes of my last post, several people wrote to me and asked, “What is an elevator speech? What do you say in it?”

OK, back to basics – an elevator speech is short enough for you to give in a typical elevator ride. If you look this topic up on the Internet, elevator speeches are supposed to be no more than 30 seconds, typically 80-100 words. I cheat, probably because I spend a lot of time in slow-moving hospital elevators, so mine is about 2 minutes long. But you get the idea.

My Quaker elevator speech is short, friendly, informative and inviting. I’ve given it hundreds of times. Depending on what the person I’m talking with is interested in, it can include any of the following points:

  • Quakers are a Protestant group. We’ve been around for almost 400 years.
  • The Quaker meeting I work with is one of the oldest churches in the area – we got started 3 years before the Declaration of Independence.
  • Quakers were the first church to say that you couldn’t be a member and keep slaves. We helped to run the Underground Railroad.
  • Quakers have women ministers. We’ve been doing that for almost 400 years, too.
  • Quakers are really interested in peace. A lot of Quakers are conscientious objectors. We also do a lot of positive work for peace.
  • Quakers like to pray quietly. The world today is a noisy place. Quiet prayer helps us feel closer to God.

Depending on the situation, who I’m talking with, or in answer to a question, I may also go on with:

  • Yes, most Quakers identify themselves as Christians.
  • No, we don’t all dress like the guy on the Quaker Oats box.
  • Quakers have a special interest in Native Americans.
  • No, we’re not Amish. But we’re sort of like cousins.

I may ask about Quakers they’ve heard about, like William Penn or Susan B. Anthony. Here in this area of North Carolina, I often talk with people about Allen Jay.

During the elevator speech, I never use Quaker jargon. EVER.

Before saying goodbye, I always say something like:

  • It’s been nice talking with you!
  • Come visit us at worship – that’s the best way to get to know us.
  • Do you use the internet? Check us out at springfieldfriends.org.

Make up your own version of the elevator speech — whatever you feel comfortable about saying. Try it out on people, and tweak it now and then. Don’t argue, don’t put down other religious groups or make bad comparisons, don’t be negative. Be friendly and inclusive. Most people will be interested in things which are distinctive, but will repel off anything they think is weird. Always thank people for being interested, and always invite them to come to meeting, or visit your meeting’s web site.

That’s the elevator speech.

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11 Responses to “The elevator speech”


  1. 1 Roger Dreisbach-Williams November 3, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    What’s a Quaker?
    Scripture tells us to worship in Spirit and Truth, and we do.
    We are creatures, not the Creator, who created all of us with love, asking only that we be faithful. To do this, we worship in silence, each of us waiting for the Creator to come into our awareness – which may happen during worship or in a quiet moment later.
    Christ is our priest, bishop, prophet, final authority. During worship anyone may receive a message to be shared – our meetings are seldom without vocal ministry, though who speaks when for how long and on what subject is not known by anyone in advance.
    All are welcome to attend. My Meeting is on Watchung Ave. – between the Post Office and the railroad – in Plainfield, NJ. Worship begins at 10:30 on Sunday. The benches are all different and if the first place you sit isn’t comfortable you can move. We have refreshments afterwards.

    -> This takes about a minute. An Elevator speech needs a series of hooks to keep the listener’s attention, and our doctrine includes several – let’s use them (and be ready with more during the brief discussion that will follow when you leave the elevator)!

  2. 2 Ellie Caldwell November 4, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    ATT tech asked this week, “What’s a Quaker?” Great opportunity for the elevator speech! Here in south Florida, details probably a little different,but not much. Don’t overwhelm, keep history short, & include an invitation.

  3. 3 Janette Carson November 4, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Thanks, Josh! I’ve also heard this definition of Quaker – Quakers believe that Jesus is in, with, and for, EVERY person, Quaker or not, Christian or not.

  4. 4 Ashley Wilcox November 5, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    I usually start with, “Quaker believe everyone has direct access to God (we do not need a priest or other intermediary). Our worship reflects that: we meet for worship to listen to God together.” I then say that traditionally, Friends worship for an hour in silence, but some meetings have programmed elements (like singing, prayer, and prepared messages) too. I talk about how we believe that God can speak through anyone, so we sit facing each other. I sometimes say that the RSoF originated in England, and came to the US before the Revolutionary War. I will ask people what their associations are with Quakers (usually Quaker Oats and the Underground Railroad), and talk about how those things are/are not related to Friends. I often mention that there are more Quakers in Kenya than in the US, because that is surprising for a lot of folks (including a lot of Quakers!).

  5. 5 John Jeremiah Edminster November 6, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Friend Joshua, I love this! I also love yours, Roger! Some years ago, General Secretary Christopher Sammond challenged us NYYM Friends to have an elevator speech for Quakerism. I have yet to compose mine. (I’m more inclined to emote about the goodness of the all-forgiving God who wants to heal us of the things that make us hate ourselves, and who will talk to us if we allow it; talk about Quakerism is usually served as a dessert course if the person hangs around.) Thank you for encouraging us all to compose our own!

  6. 6 'da girl tonya November 7, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    What is a Quaker? Well, we vary. Coming from all walks of life ranging from atheist to Taoist (I am a pagan Quaker), our ideas vary. The two ideas that hold us together are: (1) we believe in peace and (2) we believe God/goodness dwells within our bodies/temples. Feeling alienated? Well, as a Quaker, I have an app for that: Silence.

    • 7 Joshua Brown November 13, 2017 at 9:48 am

      This is your “elevator speech” and that’s good — but it might leave some people confused. The overwhelming majority of Quakers worldwide identify themselves as Christians.

  7. 8 dwmckay November 13, 2017 at 7:24 am

    I might quibble about “Protestant”.

    • 9 Joshua Brown November 13, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Again, for most people I’m talking with, this is a fast way to clear up a question most people have.

      • 10 dwmckay November 13, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        My concerns (no, not “concern”, “quibbles”) with “Protestant.

        1) Most Protestants I know don’t self-identify as “Protestant”.They either see themselves as “Christian” or identify with a denominational label (i.e., Methodist, Anglican…), so the Protestant label doesn’t really mean much other than “not-Catholic” (which also exclude the other branches “orthodox” and “Coptic”.

        2) “Quakers are a Protestant group.” AND “Most Quakers identify themselves as Christians” is a REALLY odd combo/head trip for those for whom the term “Protestant” is actually meaningful.

  8. 11 Loretta Griffith November 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you for these wonderful post. Yes, I am a 60 yr. old conservative Quaker. with the Lord and my daily reflections is how I choose to walk with the Lord every day. I do not find the getting together on a Sunday has ever been an importance to me as to me, as I choose to have noone before but my Lord Jesus, Sunday is First Day and only that. The church / temple etc. is in my heart. My Sabbath Day is Saturday and this is my way, everyday at anytime, keeps me whole.

    I do however, respect your way and many other ways of living as Quakers, but for me I love being a Conservative Quaker.

    Many Blessings to you and to yours,
    Loretta Griffith


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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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