Shortly before the onset of the pandemic, my wife and I moved to a different part of Florida. Living in a new community can be rewarding because you meet new people and make new friends. As you get acquainted with others, the inevitable question arises: “What do you do for work?”
Obviously, I could say I am a CEO or an association executive. But I still instinctively (and proudly) proclaim that “I am an internal auditor!”
The first reaction is often a joke, such as “please don’t audit my taxes,” or “I’ll bet you are popular at work.” I can’t help but remember a live radio interview I did several years ago. The host opened the interview by saying, “Meet an auditor at a cocktail party, and you might decide you suddenly need a fresh drink.”
While the radio host was clearly engaged in a bit of levity, there was more than a grain of truth in his portrayal of our profession. We’ve all heard the jokes depicting us as tedious, intimidating, or even boring. Obviously, we don’t want people running for the punch bowl each time we are introduced. There has to be a better way.
Fortunately, I think the solution could be simple if we are aligned and prepared when the question arises. You’ve probably heard of an “elevator pitch,” a 60-second (or shorter) speech to a new acquaintance about who you are and what you do. An elevator pitch is typically used when trying to land a job or close a sale, but I think it can be a great tool to mold or change perceptions about the internal audit profession.
Obviously, in a pandemic, we aren’t riding much in elevators these days — certainly not with other people. But that doesn’t mean the question isn’t still out there: “What do internal auditors do?”
Answering it shouldn’t be a chore. Among other things, we help improve operations, give advice to CEOs and others, and thwart nefarious fraudsters. I’ve never seen an auditor leap tall buildings in a single bound, but other than that, there’s not much in the business world we don’t touch at one point or another.
As author and business management guru Tom Peters said in his presentation at an IIA International Conference a few years ago, “Internal auditing has got to be the coolest profession in the world!” If you’re an internal auditor, you may very well agree with that statement. But how do we convince others?
Delivering the perfect elevator pitch doesn’t happen by accident, or we’d all be doing it. But embracing a few proven techniques can rapidly improve your ability to make a strong first impression about yourself and your profession. Follow these tips, and you might find yourself invited to a few more (socially distant) gatherings … or maybe to an executive suite for a more serious conversation about internal auditing.
When I first blogged on this topic in 2014, I offered eight tips for delivering a strong, crisp elevator pitch on what internal auditors do.
About two years ago, I posted an item on LinkedIn about our profession. It struck a chord, generating more than 50,000 views, 750 likes, and scores of comments. This is what I posted on LinkedIn:
The next time someone asks:
I eventually shared my “internal auditors’ creed” in a 2019 blog post “Internal Auditors: What Is It You Do?” I elaborated on the six points I made in the LinkedIn post as follows.
Whether you are inspired to share the motivational language of the creed, an elevator pitch can be a one-minute wonder that showcases your personality and enthusiasm, leaving listeners asking for more. It also can be a lost opportunity. The choice is yours. Be prepared, or in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Once again, if you have a suggestion for a great internal audit elevator pitch, please share it here. Quite a few of us could benefit, so I look forward to your comments.