“What’s your elevator pitch?”
The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.
You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”
The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.
We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.
At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:
- In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
- We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
- If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
- Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.
Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.
The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.
She was awarded the grant!
Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!
A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!
This week’s theme is: ACT/EXECUTE on YOUR ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY!
A ‘Campaign’ is all about ACTION. The literal translation or definition of a ‘Campaign’ probably has its provenance with Napoleon and War. As any great general or military leader will tell you, success in war is about MASSIVE ACTION – NOW.
We’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of organizations screw around for years trying to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to hold the kickoff, etc. There are great organizations out there who, right now, are still debating the “impact of the economy and the recession,” or “somebody else has kicked off a campaign in our community” or “our donors are tired and maybe we should wait” and on and on. UGH!
CHALLENGE FOR THE DAY: What are the 3 ‘MASSIVE ACTIONS’ that you could take RIGHT NOW that would cause an EXPLOSIVE EXPONENTIAL JUMP or a QUANTUM LEAP for your organization?
WRITE THEM DOWN.
Then, GO DO ‘EM.
We urge you to read Dan Pink’s book, TO SELL IS HUMAN!
Go immediately to Page 155 and read about Elisha Otis and the world’s first elevator pitch!
Teaser: It involved him climbing on top of one of the world’s first elevators and taking an axe and slashing the rope that is suspending it in mid-air!
We love Dan’s thinking as he goes into the 6 Successors to the Elevator Pitch:
- The One-Word Pitch (IMPACT!)
- The Question Pitch (JUST ASK!)
- The Rhyming Pitch (LIVE TO GIVE. GIVE TO LIVE.)
- The Subject Line Pitch (YOU JUST WON $1M FROM NIGERIAN LOTTERY.)
- The Twitter Pitch (ESPECIALLY TWEETS THAT PROVIDE INFORMATION AND LINKS OF VALUE TO RECIPIENTS.)
- The Pixar Pitch!!! (Page 170. THIS ALONE IS WORTH THE PRICE OF THE BOOK.)
Pink reinforces everything we’ve read about Pixar, John Lasseter and his team, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney Company, and more.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STORY!
Once upon a time there was _________. Every day _________.
One day ________ and _________. Because of that _________ .
Because of that __________. Until finally _________.
To every For Impact organization out there … fill in the blanks and you have your STORY! document
You know our FI | TSG line: You’re in Sales. Get over IT!
You all know the story of the ‘Little Engine that Could.’ Great little blue engine that pulled the big train chanting, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” It’s about the little guy overcoming odds with attitude and proving something for himself.
It’s great. But it’s not your organization’s best story.
The Little Engine story-syndrome for nonprofits looks something like this:
“We’re really tiny but we don’t give up. We make good use of everything. We’re struggling but we’re going to make it. We believe we can. We believe we’re doing good work! Can you support us?”
Present a better story. The Little Engine That Could story is a narrative about confidence.
We want a narrative about PURPOSE!
No time for you to tell us you can give yourself a pep talk. With all due respect to the little engine, we’re not pulling a train full of toys; we’re SAVING lives, CHANGING lives and IMPACTING lives!
Inspire like MLK.
Heck, charge forward like Braveheart.
They were driven by a sense of PURPOSE, not self-discovery.
Here’s a really solid article from Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard Business Review: If You Don’t Like Your Future, Re-Write Your Past. (June 11, 2012)
At For Impact and The Suddes Group, we talk an awful lot about the power of story.
This article reinforces the whole idea of changing the narrative … so that it creates a different view/perspective.
Every one of us can take this to heart. “If you don’t like how things are going, tell a different story.”
Here’s a For Impact example of how to ‘tell a different story.’ It’s an excerpt from our On Boards guidebook:
The best way to begin improving the dynamics of your Board relationship is to Change the Story.
OLD STORY: What is the current ‘STORY’ you’re telling yourself about your Board?
They want to micro-manage everything.
They won’t give us names.
They won’t ask their friends for money.
We can’t get new and better Board Members.
We are stuck with ‘Legacy’ Board Members.
We all dread Board Meetings.
This ‘story’ is familiar, but doesn’t have to be true moving forward.
NEW STORY:WHAT IF… you change that ‘STORY’ to one that sounded like this:
Our Collective Board is engaged with us at 30,000’ around our Vision.
Our Individual Board Members help us at 14,000’ around our Strategy.
Our Board truly understands their role when it comes to funding … and they love it.
Successful community leaders who believe in our Cause and our Case are fighting to get on our Board.
We have had great conversations with our entire Board about the ‘BUS’… where it’s going and who needs to be on it. Those who are not in alignment with our direction have gracefully and gratefully accepted either Emeritus status or rotated off the Board.
Our Board Meetings are now Memorable Experiences … exciting opportunities to both see and talk about our Impact! We can’t wait for the next one.
You control the Board ‘Story!’ It can be a negative story or a positive story. Your choice.
Either way, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Let me tell you a story … about an amazing man and social entrepreneur named Bill Strickland. We had the opportunity to exchange ideas with him and his team at the Manchester Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh.
Bill’s credited as a terrific social entrepreneur and a visionary; he’s both. More importantly, his program to transform the lives of poor youth individuals and the community works. Harvard’s done four case studies exploring the success. (By the way, Apple is the only other ‘organization’ to be the subject of four Harvard Case Studies.)
What I really appreciate about Bill is his ‘persistent story telling.’ I’ll bet he’s shared his slide show 3000+ times. I know for a fact he’s shared his story in front of every audience that will have him … in hundreds of cities … around the world.
I share this with you for two reasons. First, Bill is a great storyteller and you need to hear his story. (Listen to his TED Talk, “Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show.”)
Second, the dude works hard and you can too! Sharing your story 3000 times is hard work. It requires persistence and conviction to your message. Sometimes you end up speaking to a room of five people and sometimes Jeff Skoll is in the audience. Bill’s stories frequently include something like, “And [insert famous/influential name] was in the audience; she came up to me and said, ‘I’d like to help!’
If you tell your story 3000 times I promise these things will happen to you as well. Here’s the thing … you don’t need to share your story 3000 times. You don’t even need to share your story 1000 times. It’s just the idea of committing to MASSIVE ACTION (as Tony Robbins calls it).
What if you told YOUR story 100 times? You WILL raise some funds and change some lives.
What if you told YOUR story 1000 times? You WILL change your sector or city.
What if you told YOUR story 3000 times? You WILL change the world.
In 2011, Bill was awarded the 2011 Goi Peace Award. This is Japan’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Let me tell you a story …”
The exact same story can be told very differently by different people … or in different ways.
The STORYTELLER as a lot to do with it. To most effectively ‘share the story’ of your For Impact organization, you want a storyteller who is authentic … filled with passion for your organization … and a great communicator.
To help you tell your story the very best way possible, here are the 7 SECRETS OF THE WORLD’S BEST STORYTELLERS*:
- LESS IS MORE!
- Make every word count.
- Get it perfect … then cut even more
- DRAMATIC PAUSE!
- Use silence.
- Use inflection.
- Think like an actor.
- PAINT VIVID WORD PICTURES!
Listen to Zig Ziglar tell the story of how the “Redhead” got him to buy his first house!!
- PAINT … WITH YOUR HAND, YOUR MIND AND YOUR HEART!
- Really get into it.
- EnthusIASM (IASM: “I Am Sold Myself.”)
- ACT THE STORY … DON’T REPORT IT!
Storytelling is NOT a PowerPoint … Presentation … from the Podium! It’s about PERFORMANCE … whether it’s one-on-one or in front of a group.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE! KEEP IT SMALL! KEEP IT SHORT!
- CUSTOMIZE TO YOUR AUDIENCE!
The absolute best stories and best storytellers make the story RELEVANT to the audience … to the topic … to the point.
At For Impact, we’re all about training, coaching … PRACTICING! PRACTICE your STORY! ‘Practice’ with everybody and anybody. The better the storyteller … the more powerful the story!
*I cannot remember (senility) where I found these 7 secrets. If you know the SOURCE, please let me know.
Try this tool for building your story.
STORYBOARDING: It’s a Walt Disney animation term … but it works perfectly for us. Actually laying out the ‘STORY’ is a way to Prepare and Practice your Presentation!
- HOW do you begin?
- HOW do you talk about the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW?
- WHO do you talk about? (Their Story)
Storyboarding works for helping you design your ORAL STORIES … WRITTEN STORIES … or VISUAL STORIES. Or any way you combine them.
P.S. The story doesn’t always start with “In 1842, Father Sorin and six brothers came to a snowy lake which was actually two lakes…” (Notre Dame).
I once spent a day at Disney World with an amazing group of Junior Achievement CHAMPIONS (aka Board Members and Staff). It was a six-hour ‘RETREAT’ and my role was to facilitate/coach to help Junior Achievement Board Members become more ENGAGED and more PASSIONATE ADVOCATES for Youth Development, Economic Development and Workforce Development.
We (60 Board and Staff Members from Junior Achievement of Central Florida and West Coast) spent the day talking about IMPACT and INCOME and their ROLE. I was totally energized by the commitment of these CHAMPIONS … and of their serious desire to figure out how to help.
As part of my ‘prep,’ I re-read one of my favorite ‘books’ called Walt Disney Imagineering, by the Disney Imagineers. It’s full of all kinds of the SKETCHES (VISUALS) that were eventually turned into reality.
Following are some tweet-like quotes from Walt Disney Imagineering that reinforce the entire idea of STORIES and VISUALS.
“You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all.
You have to SHOW them what you’re going to do.”
“I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible
because dreams offer too little collateral.”
“Question: How many Imagineers does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?”
“For Disneyland, the process of ‘learning and succeeding
by dreaming and doing’ was employed for the very first time.”
“The only rule during this time (of brainstorming Disneyland): There are no rules.”
“The Walt Disney Company is in the business of TELLING STORIES.”
“There are no days in life so memorable
as those which vibrate to some stroke of the IMAGINATION.”
“Storyboards are used a PRESENTATION TOOL… to SELL THE IDEA!”
In a blurb that came out from Notre Dame News, the president, Father John Jenkins, was talking about his vice president of university relations, Lou Nanni.
In a very complimentary way, Father Jenkins indicated that, in the time that he has served, Lou has been involved in “shaping Notre Dame’s messaging and helping tell our story to various constituencies.”
I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years about how ‘easy’ it would be to raise money for Notre Dame … how you don’t have to worry about doing ‘this stuff’ at Notre Dame, etc.
Father Jenkins quote seems like a gentle reminder that, even at Notre Dame, it is very important to shape the message and tell the story.