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!

Pitchfalls (a free eBook to help you unleash your awesome)


UPDATE: This little gem was so popular I turned it into a mini-book!  Get your copy today.

The word ‘pitch’ has such a bad rap. It’s sad, really. Because a pitch is your ticket to conversations that lead to more people engaged with you and your awesome work.

There’s a lot of similarity between people’s pitch glitches. They can, in fact, be categorized. I shared three reasons why bad pitches happen to good people a few weeks back. What I didn’t tell you was what to do about all this bad pitching.

In Pitchfalls: why bad pitches happen to good people (a FREE sneak peak), I share the top five reasons that people stumble when delivering a pitch. I explain why it happens and, most importantly, how to fix it.

I wrote the eBook knowing it would be read by busy people–people like you who want to making the world a better place, have a great pitch to help you do it, but can’t quite find the time to make it happen. You can dramatically improve your pitch in less than 10 minutes. So can your staff and board. Really, you can. 

For those of you who can’t wait to know what the top five Pitchfalls are, here you go.

  1. You sound like  a robot
  2. You talk about yourself
  3. You talk too much
  4. You use jargon
  5. You sound like a talking tagline
If any of these sound familiar (or intriguing), buy your very own copy of Pitchfalls and get the full scoop!


Why Bad Pitches Happen to Good People

elevator pitch, boring, haiku, personal pitch

You’re not boring. Why have a boring pitch?!

The kind folks at WVDO-OR invited me to do a workshop on Perfecting Your Personal Pitch.  I really should’ve called it:  ‘Pitchfalls: Why Bad Pitches Happen to Good People’.

Andy Goodman, storytelling guru and all-around source of messaging goodness, has previously revealed ‘Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes‘ and ‘Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes‘. Both are mind-blowing while being uber-practical.

There’s no shortage of info on creating an awesome elevator pitch. So the question is: why do bad (elevator) pitches happen to good people?

Pitches go sideways for many reasons. After hearing thousands of pitches from good people over the years, here are the top three reasons:

  1. You’re boring: You technically say what you do, but you say it in such a boring way, the person you’re saying it to wants to nap.
  2. You say too much: You’re so excited about what you do that you go on and on and on, regaling the listener with your laundry list of awesomeness.
  3. You think people care about you: They don’t. They care about themselves. They want to hear how what you are doing relates to them.

Great pitches also happen good people. (Here’s an example of one.) And they can happen to you.

If you’d like to banish bad pitches, for you and good people, peruse the presentation and/or get in touch.


Sparking conversations vs. elevator pitching

elevator pitch, conversations,

What conversations will you spark today?

When we sit down to craft our ‘elevator pitch’, we generally ask ourselves: “What do I want people to know about me and my organization?”

That’s the wrong question.

The right question is: “What words can I use to spark conversations that will make my community better, stronger and more vibrant?”  

Your elevator pitch is a gateway to a better world. Every time you talk to someone about your work, it’s an opportunity to spark a conversation about building that better world.

Are you building a better world by ending poverty, hunger or bullying? How about world-class theater or breath-taking sculpture? Or maybe your better-world convos center around sustainability, transportation and housing?

If you focus solely on you and your organization rather than sparking a conversation, you’re missing out on the building-a-better-world boat.

So ask yourself: what conversations will I spark today?

“Did you just tagline me?!”

Elevator pitch, tagline, messaging

Don’t tagline someone at a cocktail party!

Last week at the Idaho Nonprofit Conference, I did a session on Mastering Your Message. We talked about the difference between messaging that is read vs said.

For instance, an elevator pitch is said and taglines are read. That’s why when you use your tagline as your elevator pitch, you end up “taglining” someone.

That’s right, thanks to an awesome workshop attendee, “to tagline” is now a verb. They were asked to share their current elevator pitch with their neighbors and as I wandered by one group, a woman looked up and said, “I think I just got taglined!”

Being taglined is no fun. It’s kind of creepy.

Take the American Cancer Society. They have a humdinger of a tagline: The official sponsor of birthdays. Now imagine you’re at a cocktail party chatting with someone who worked for them and they said: “I work for the American Cancer Society. We’re the official sponsor of birthdays.” Um, okay. Good for you. (Go away, creepy person who is coming on way to strong. That’s what you’d really be thinking.)

If you’re working on your messaging, start by perfecting your elevator pitch, then tackle your website copy and other social properties, and then your tagline. In that order.

Everyone wants to come up with the snazzy tagline. It’s way fun. And that’s why most organizations start there. But it’s much smoother, and completely un-creepy, to transition from messaging that is said to messaging that is read.

Have you ever been taglined?