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The Elevator Speech … How the Alliance (and You) Can Make Our Points on the Hill

April 6, 2012

An elevator speech is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes (with thanks to Wikipedia for this definition).

Congressional staff and media usually allow us more than 2 minutes to make our points on behalf of FDA. Nonetheless, it is best to be persuasive without taking up too much time. With this in mind, for this year’s Alliance Hill Day we used a one-page explanation of FDA’s budget needs (alomg with a chart with our request) and a shorter, less dense slide deck.

Those materials are all now available in the Resources section of this web site. They were well-received on the Hill. After reviewing them, I hope they also make it easier for you to articulate the FDA’s needs.  

Even still, the concept of an elevator speech is pertinent to our efforts. Reporters will generally give you less time than a Hill staffer … and even a Hill staffer might only have 2 minutes because of unexpected demands placed on their schedule. There are so many things you could say … but what do you actually say when you have so little time to speak?

I would start with the context: FDA was severely underfunded for 20 years. We are grateful to Congress for the support they have shown in recent years and assure you that the money has been well-spent. FDA touches the lives of every American multiple times each day and is a core function of government, as essential to our nation as air traffic controllers and national defense.

Then deliver the main point: Further, and despite the extraordinary pressure for spending cuts, FDA funding needs to be increased in FY 13 to match its growing responsibilities and obligations.

  • Part of this comes from Congress — biosimilars, FSMA, medical countermeasures, and the likelihood of new programs and requirements in the user fee reauthorization.
  • The other part comes from things that neither Congress nor FDA can control — globalization, conversion to risk-based inspections, scientific complexity, promoting innovation and dealing with public health emergencies. None of the funds for these activities are in the agency’s FY 12 base.

That’s about as much as you can cover in a minute. The materials we delivered on Hill Day are just a more detailed version of this.

If allowed to provide a single leave-behind to complement the elevator speech, I would use this slide from our deck.  It is a succinct presentation of the case for increased FDA funding in FY 13.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, the Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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