Who Will Sit in the Empty Chair?

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We all have needs that, more often than not, can be met by connecting with the right people at the right time. The concept of the empty chair represents an idea that can help in the face of adversity, in the face of change, and in the pursuit of a powerful close for your elevator pitch.

The Empty Chair in Your Elevator Speech

Sometimes, when passionate people come together for a discussion of important ideas, the conversation can get heated. Comments lead to questions that lead to allegations to agendas that never seem to align.

When the conversation matters, people get invested, and they get involved – with an energy that can be unsettling, if it’s unexpected.



In the face of charged remarks and a heated elevator pitch, I like to remember the concept of the Empty Chair.  The Empty Chair represents the person (or persons) who can’t be in the room for your conversation, even though the results could have a profound impact on their lives, their professions or their families.

Imagine the person you are fighting for… because the empty chair is reserved for them.


The Empty Chair is the seat at the table for the customer, the shareholder, the patient, or the student.

Sometimes the empty chair can be reserved for the people who have inspired us.

The Empty Chair represents the investor, the employee, the line worker – the folks whose lives will be deeply touched by the results of the New Elevator Pitch.

Sometimes the empty chair can help us to remember those whose contributions are still with us, even when they are not. SteveJobs_Sm

Consider the change you want to make, and who that change is really designed to help. Often, heated dialogue leaves out the person or persons who are the focus for the business, the charity, the university, or the hospital. The Empty Chair is reserved for the person who gets left out, when agendas and frustrations overtake a difficult conversation.


You see, the New Elevator Pitch is designed for difficult conversations.


Turbulence is expected. Every elevator pitch is about creating change, and disrupting the status quo in some way.

  • Want the company to hire you?
  • Want the new wastewater plant to get funded?
  • Want the investors to finance your new record label?
  • Want your candidate to win the election?

All those situations, and any other pitch you can think of, require change. People resist change. People don’t like change, even when it’s good for them. What’s good is not always what’s familiar, and that breeds resistance.

Here’s a really good 30-second commercial from Synthetic Films in Austin – it showcases the people that sit in the empty chair.

Consider the Empty Chair, in the face of change. What does your proposed change mean for the shareholders, the team, the coaching staff, or the home-buyer? Resistance can cause us to lose focus. Remember what matters, no matter what. Ask your listener to consider the person that will be impacted by your proposed change. Help your listener to see an important audience, even when they can’t be in the room with you. Put someone in the Empty Chair, as a reminder to keep the conversation focused on the people who really matter – even if they can’t be there to speak for themselves.

Main image photo courtesy of Hanseler. Used under creative commons license, some rights reserved. Swordplay image courtesy of Mr. Tickle, used under creative commons.

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