Practice makes progress

role play, pitching, practicing, messaging

Practice until you drop!

Yesterday,  a group of brave staff and board members from an awesome organization (that shall remain nameless to protect the identities of those involved) topped off a day of word nerdery with some good old-fashion role playing.

I have done role playing with countless people and groups and I’m yet to have someone say, “Oh thank goodness. We finally get to my favorite part–role playing!”

No one likes role playing. It’s awkward and you feel like a dork. And you’re encumbered with the belief that the goal of practice is perfection, which is unattainable so why bother.

Practice isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress.

Let’s play this out. Let’s say you’re sprucing up everyone’s elevator pitch. You’ve just crafted a new core message (that one sentence you want everyone to embrace and say with zeal). Everyone really likes it. You know it conveys the One Thing You Want People to Know About You and Your Organization (title case because that’s what you’re after with your core message).

This is as far as most groups go. They write the message, then stand back, fold their arms, and talk about what they like and don’t like about it. They don’t practice it.

Talking about your message and saying it are two very different things. The first one keeps it “in theory”–the next time you find yourself in a situation where you could use it, you won’t. Because you won’t remember it. Because you haven’t practiced it. And without practice, there’s no progress. And without progress, there’s no change.

The point of finding world-changing words for your world-changing work (here’s a little rant on that) is to use them, not think deep thoughts about them while staring at them on a page or computer screen!

Thus, practice. Thus, role playing.

Role playing is particularly hard for board members who talk less often about the organization. They will resist. They will grouse. They will all of a sudden need to plug their meters and/or run to the washroom. Let them do all that. And then have them role play.

The group yesterday eventually transitioned from talking about their new message to saying it. They personalized it, infusing it with their passion and personal experience. And when they did, they knocked my socks off and blew my hair back. They were awesome.

Practice may not make perfect. It does, however, make for a whole lot of progress.

Venture forth and practice!

Get off message & on belief

Don’t be a messaging robot.

Earlier this week, I was invited to give a workshop for 501 Commons volunteers. My advice to get off message raised a few eyebrows. Don’t we want everyone ‘on message’?! Nope, you want them ‘on belief’. Here’s what I mean.

You aren’t successful if every single person in your organization answers the question: “What does your organization do?” in the exact same way.

You’re successful if everyone answers that question using your 3 key words in a way that reinforces what you want to be known for with passion, energy and conviction.

Supporters want to engage with an organization that has a compelling way of addressing a cause they care about.

Word-for-word ends up being robotic. Robotic isn’t compelling.

Worry less about being “on message” and more about attracting staff and board who are “on belief”–you’ll go further, faster and with less effort.

(Here’s guidance on how to help your organization find its 3 key words.)

photo credit: Ѕolo via photo pin cc
 

Why you should be uptight about words

I am often accused of being uptight when it comes to word choice. In France, the quest for le bon mot is a national sport. But I realize I don’t live in France and should lighten up a bit.

The thing is human beings make most decisions in 7 seconds or less. What you do in those 7 seconds, including the words you use, matters.

In 2009, there were 1,928,158 non profits in the United States alone. You have one shot to make a great first impression and to stand out from the sea of organizations, and chatter, and craziness of life.

Could I loosen up a bit about word choice? Well, yeah, personally I could probably stand to do that. But this isn’t about moi and it wouldn’t change the fact that time spent finding words that resonate with the people who matter most to your organization is imperative to your success. That’s not going to change.

Be uptight about–or at least mindful of–your words. Find the right ones. It’s important.