Being human

April’s theme is elevator pitches–the good, the bad and the ugly. So when we gathered for our monthly Meet-Up, we talked about just that. What to say, how, when, tone of voice, words, meaning. We covered all that. But when you get right down to it, what we talked about was being human.

Here’s what I mean.

We spend so much time crafting pithy, punchy responses to the question, “What do you do?” that they end up feeling contrived. Robotic automatons are not engaging. No offense to C3Po, but robots aren’t generally inspiring. They don’t make us want to ask follow-up questions. If they inspire anything, it is efficiency, i.e. how quickly can I get through this conversation and move on. You’re human. Play to your strengths!

Here are some tips we covered for being more human when you’re getting a conversation started:

  • Remind yourself that an elevator pitch is a door opener, not a deal closer.
  • Don’t call it an elevator pitch. The term conjures up visions of grinding metal, gunky buttons and cloying perfume. Call it your snappy one-liner or your lean-in line or something that makes you smile and want to say it.
  • Talk about a specific person that benefits from your work, not the millions that could potentially. For instance, if you work with orphans in India, talk about Rajit, a five year old who has lived in an orphanage in Delhi since his parents died of AIDS two years ago. Your listener can relate to Rajit. He or she can’t relate to the 31,000,000 orphans living in India. It’s too big. Contrary to popular opinion, bigger isn’t always better.
  • Draw comparisons we can wrap our brains around. Make it easy to visualize. For instance, if you work to end water-related illnesses say, “We’re on a mission to end water-born illnesses. Why is this so important? Because more children die every day from these preventable diseases than live on Bainbridge Island. Imagine if Bainbridge just disappeared. It happens every day. And it doesn’t have to.” Pick a town close to where you live or, ideally, where your listener lives. I can visualize Bainbridge Island disappearing and it’s shocking.

What’s your compelling why? Do you make it specific, relative and human?

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