Project 2½: An Elevator (or soapbox) Speech

Note: This is a portfolio piece and communication exercise for Professor McGuire’s Composition II course. It is designed to develop practical practical and persuasive communication skills. It is a college-level project but can be adapted for younger audiences.


If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.     — Cicero

Now that you’ve been researching your area of concern/service for a while and have written a draft of your “Service/Activist’s Guide to an Issue,” you should be pretty conversant on your topic and able to discuss the core issue with concision. If you want to move people toward positive change around the issue of your concern/service/activism, you’ll need to be able to talk with them about it–to convince them that a problem exists and that there is something that can be done–in fact, something that they can do.
In our fast-paced world, though, we don’t always have a captive audience who will sit patiently for as long as we need them to in order for us to get our message out to them. We need to be prepared to talk, and we need to be able to scale our points up to a long discussion or down to a 30 second pitch as the situation demands. That’s what this simple assignment is all about. Give this task a bit of thought, but it shouldn’t be very time consuming. The idea here is to spend some time figuring out how to best articulate your cause (the issue you wrote about in Project 2) in a way that would convince others to take action.

Please do the following:

  1. Figure out a way to briefly explain the essence of the problem at hand, your specific concern, and what a person can do about this problem in no more than three minutes. We can call this an “elevator speech.” (Imagine you are riding on an elevator with a person and have only the time of the elevator ride to inform them of the issue and one thing that can be done about.)
  2. Create an outline of “talking points” (not a script) for your speech, being sure that it includes key points and supporting evidence as needed. Post the speech outline or talking points to the Commonplace before the due date. Remember, the piece has got to be concise, compelling, and convincing.
  3. Practice your speech, so you know it and can deliver it with ease and fluidity.
  4. Be prepared to deliver your speech to the class on the meeting of our due date. Volunteers will be taken first, and then some will be randomly selected. It’s possible that not everyone will deliver the speech depending on time constraints, but you must be prepared.

How this Assignment Will Be Assessed

First of all remember that this assignment will not be fully assessed until you include it as a part of your final portfolio project; however, as an initial draft outline that may be reviewed by members of the class and may be delivered as a short speech to the class, completing it on time is essential to stay on track toward at least a B in this course. Refer to the grading contract on the syllabus for more information about the importance of meeting all deadlines, and for general information on what makes
for exemplary writing in this course.

The basic expectations that I have for average and acceptable work for this project are as follows. The work should:

  • include a detailed outline (not a full script) posted to the Commonplace by the due date
  • include compelling and cited evidence to support any and all claims
  • be informative and persuasive
  • be based on what you created for the Project 2: The Service/Activist’s Guide to an Issue
  • be 3 minutes long when/if delivered, no more and not significantly less

Due Dates

This work must be posted to the course “Commonplace” and categorized as “essay draft” (even though it’s not actually an essay) by the scheduled due date. If you are having technical challenges with this, it is your responsibility to seek assistance from the instructor as soon as possible—before the due date and with enough time to resolve the issue. (Tech issues are not an excuse for not doing your work.) Be sure also to keep your own electronic copy of your draft, so that you can easily return to it for revision at a later time. Consult the course schedule for a complete list of due dates.