What is OT? In 60 Seconds or Less!

by Cheryl Hall on October 1st, 2018

I have been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years, and I’m not sure the profession is any better understood today than when I started! As OTs we have an obligation to promote a better understanding of this great profession – one conversation at a time. Hopefully you will have more than 60 seconds to explain OT, but if you don’t, make sure you have your elevator speech ready to go. To get started, consider these 5 ideas to help you craft a great 60 second elevator speech that captures the value and impact of occupational therapy.

Cheryl Hall, OT
Author and Illustrator, Occupational Therapy Toolkit

Be Passionate – Your elevator speech should, first and foremost, convey your passion about this great profession. The essence of why you love being an OT should be front and center. By describing that breakthrough moment with your patients, painting a picture of the most satisfying result, or explaining why you go work each day, you will engage the listener and make them wish they were an OT too!

Describe the Big Picture – Placing OT in a larger context establishes the far reaching value of OT and why is the world better off. Mention the variety of settings where OTs practice or the types of patients that benefit from OT. Position OT in the context of the larger health care system and describe the role of OT on a holistic health care team.

Address Misconceptions – Use your elevator speech to set the facts straight about OT. Most OTs want people to know that OT is not PT, and that an OT is not tasked with finding a job for their patients. Be careful not to be defensive or negative, but instead describe the synergy between health care providers and describe how OT empowers patients to begin again after a devastating illness or injury. You could also end with a question to engage your audience and continue the conversation about their perceptions of OT.

Edit and Edit Again – Writing succinctly is much harder than it looks. Every word needs to count and support the entire message. Once you have written a draft, walk away from it for a couple of days. When you reread, you will have a fresh perspective. Avoid jargon or acronyms – the fastest way to lose your audience is to use a reference that they do not understand. Turn to a thesaurus to pick just the right word for maximum impact, for example which is more descriptive “help” or “empower”? Time yourself and edit until your speech is no more than 60 seconds long.

Practice Until Perfect – Practice out loud in the car, in the shower, or record your speech. Once you have a short, straightforward, compelling speech, deliver it to a test audience. Use family, friends, teachers, supervisors or peers who will give you honest feedback. Practice and hone until it is second nature. When ready, you will be able to deliver a 60 second speech at moment’s notice in an elevator or at a cocktail party that conveys to the world why OT is a great and impactful profession.

Share your experiences talking to people about OT! We would love to hear from you.

  • About Me

    Cheryl Hall
    Occupational Therapist
    Maryland, United States

    Welcome to a site devoted to sharing experience, knowledge and resources to make your job of being a great therapist a lot easier.

    I have been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years. I graduated from San Jose State University with degrees in Occupational Therapy, Gerontology, and Early Child Development. My passion is working with adults and children in home health but I have also worked in rehab, sub-acute rehab, hand therapy, transitional living for TBI, and hospital-based outpatient settings.

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