I just pitched a business plan to a contest. It was an excellent exercise, especially at the beginning of a new year when we all have loads of plans and projects brewing. It “forced” me to think about my project and try to button it up, get it into a nice package, and “sell” it to strangers. I didn’t “win” but the take-away was worth the price of entry:
Is your message clear enough that a stranger would understand it immediately?
I’m not talking as much about the content of your business plan (selling shoes or career counseling) as I am the clarity with which you get it across. When the stranger reads or hears or watches your pitch, is it clear to them what your plan is? Bonus: are they also clear how you’re going to achieve it, why you are the one who should be doing it, and why it’s a brilliant idea? Beyond the time in the elevator (from the esteemed Elevator Pitch), you might also be able to get across: the short- and long-term plans for the project, costs, revenues, goals, milestones, funding, manpower, etc. However, you need to get that initial message clear as a blue sky. If that first bit isn’t undeniably easily understood, then the rest is just chatter, noise, even screeching. They’ve already left the elevator. Probably forgot what you even said by the time the door closes.
The winner was Richard Boehmcke of MakeBetterVideos.com.
Can you guess his message? He doesn’t even need a tagline. He doesn’t need anything beyond his domain name. Well done! As far as this post goes, we’re done: Clear Messaging 101 example? Check, done, perfect. Thanks for stopping by.
But I wanted to look over my entry and analyze it a bit. Why? To learn. To improve. Because this is what I’d like to be doing in 2013–and beyond. If my message isn’t clear now, when will it be?
The title of my entry, unofficially, was, “I know how to get there, I’m just not sure where I’m going” (I reposted it to this site). Sure, witty, makes you think a second. But seriously folks, what’s the takeaway? I’m a lost soul? I’m not very good with maps? Come help me? I know how to do it (the project), but I don’t know exactly? Great if the project were for a dog adoption agency: “Come save me, I can walk really well, but I need you to lead me to an unknown dogpark, dear master!” If I tear it apart like that, it’s maybe intriguing, but they’re going to have to read (a lot) deeper into it to know what I’m really talking about. If there were 4 entries and I was one, sure, maybe fine, great, whatever. But there were 250. In fact, if I were judging the contest, I wouldn’t have picked my entry either based on what’s there on the surface. Tip: make sure that surface is sparkly clean and clear.
So why did that happen? Why did I do it that way?
They don’t know you. They’re not mind readers.
I tend to think that people are mind readers. I will often write (talk, pitch, perform) as if people know the backstory, know my future, know me. But of course, they don’t. I thoroughly enjoy dancing around a subject, covering all of the bases, but maybe not getting to the heart of the matter. Sure, some of that is the literary part of me that likes to make the reader “work” a bit to get the story. I could say, “Jane went to the store and bought an apple.” and everyone would get it. But I’m more likely to say, “Jane walked down the sidewalk, the apple crisp in her palm, she knew what she needed to do.” That’s all thrilling, but it doesn’t work as well in a business plan or a pitch to investors or a contest.
How could I improve my pitch? Get to the point.
This might have worked: “repossible: making the impossible possible again”
I’m going to copy part of the repossible about page. Maybe just this might have worked well:
What’s often between what someone wants and actually getting there is a combination of desire (want, need), will (determination, drive), skill (the capacity), but also knowledge (how to do it). I’m especially good in helping people achieve what they didn’t think they could. It has a lot to do with being an attentive listener and a patient instructor. I also just like telling people the inside scoop on what they usually think are some magical secrets–showing them behind the scenes that it’s really not impossible.
Hmm, intriguing but also clear: I’ll help people achieve what they thought they couldn’t achieve. OK, pretty cool. Helpful. How am I going to do that? Because I know how to do it and I’ve done it successfully myself (French villa example). A large part of repossible is also going to be through the expertise and experience of others who have made the impossible possible again. Are there magical potions to swallow? No, but maybe some hard work. Ready to do something about not winning? Here are some tips: I Lost. Now What?
Great, stop, done, finished, remove pen from fingers, drag self away from keyboard. Hit publish, put it in the mail, stop with the details. “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to write a shorter speech.” (Winston Churchill)
Keep it brief, to the point, get that point across and then stop. On that note, that’s all for today.