Effective salespeople often practice something called an “elevator speech,”—a clear, persuasive pitch for their product that’s so succinct they can deliver it on the ride between the lobby and the mezzanine. Recently I found myself giving exactly such an impromptu presentation, literally on an elevator in a conference hotel in Atlanta, trying to explain to a fellow conferencista the nature and significance of our study with Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams implementing Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs) in North Carolina.
“So, there are these legal documents called psychiatric advance directives, or PADs,” I said. (We were attending the annual conference of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research Program; she wasn’t a mental health specialist.) “They’re similar to ‘living wills’ but they’re for people with serious mental illnesses who want to plan ahead for their own treatment during a future mental health crisis. At a time when they’re feeling well, people can complete a PAD to document their treatment choices and preferences and also appoint someone they trust to make treatment decisions for them. Ideally, PADs are a ‘recovery tool’ that helps people to obtain treatment they prefer—something that works for them during a mental health crisis—including medication and hospitalization, when needed, but without involuntary commitment. In the meantime, PADs can help clear the lines of communication between the person with mental illness and clinicians and even family members; just the exercise of completing one of these documents can make people feel more in control of their own lives, and give them some peace of mind.”
“Wow! That’s the best new idea I’ve heard all day,” my elevator-companion responded. Just then the elevator doors opened on the hotel lobby and the ride was over. Unfortunately, my speech was just getting started; I guess I’d make a terrible salesperson. But now my new friend seemed interested and didn’t walk away, and so we stood there in the lobby and I kept talking.