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Threshold Genres and the Elevator Pitch

Anders, Abram. “From Threshold Concepts to Threshold Genres: Elevator Pitches as Gateways to Effective Business Communication.” Association for Business Communication – Midwestern Conference. Minneapolis, MN. April 2014.

Threshold concepts are a significant contribution to pedagogical theories of higher education. Meyer and Land describe threshold concepts as portals to higher level understandings of disciplinary cultures and knowledges. This study argues for extending and adapting this theory to include “threshold genres” as gateways of communication practice. In this theorization, genres are argued to embed and coordinate a series of threshold concepts in a performative application that addresses a real problem-solving context. More specifically, this study argues that elevator pitches are a genre that integrates a range of essential management and business communication skills including audience analysis, concise message development, persuasive appeals, and value propositions. Furthermore, elevator pitches require the coordination and integration of written and oral communication skills.

Though elevator pitches could be categorized as supplementary to more formal or structured business genres such as the business plan, self-introduction, or report for decision making, this study argues that they offer unique pedagogical value. Elevator pitches merge the importance of keeping it short and simple for written communication and the audience immediacy of oral communication. When students achieve success in an elevator pitch, they internalize expectations for a range of business communication capacities and skills including conciseness, you-focus, persuasiveness, preparation, and performance. Furthermore, elevator pitches are a universally relevant genre including diverse applications such as seeking a job, networking, proposing an business idea, proposing a business opportunity, and communicating organizational stories.

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