To say it up front, this will be my last blog for this year. I’ll take a break over Christmas and the New Year and will return in January 2020.
I’ll take a break to take the time to look back at what has happened the past 12 months. I like to look at my achievements, what I’m proud of, what I’m grateful for, what made me happy or sad, what I’ve learned and what I’d like to focus on for the next 12 months.
Everyone who knows me knows that I keep a journal. It’s part of my daily routine. Before I get to work, I take a couple of minutes to write. It sets the tone for my day and reminds me of what’s important. I decide about one major task I’ll work on and check what other tasks are on my list. At the end of the day I frequently add what I call “Insights & Actions” especially if I haven’t done what I had planned to do. I take a moment and write down why I didn’t do it and what I will do about it.
I take these notes from the past year and go through them. Some pages I fly over, but some I read thoroughly. The pages I spend more time on are the ones holding the information about what I’ve learned, what I’d like to eliminate from my life or what I’d like to focus on the next year. They work like a compass guiding me on my business and life journey.
To give it some structure I use questions that I find relevant and that help me make decisions for the next 12 months. When I first started doing my yearly review, it was quite chaotic. Over time, I came across many different ways on how one can do this reflection exercise and picked the questions and ideas that I found most useful for myself.
I created some focus areas that are relevant in my life: * Business * Development * Family/Friends * Finances * Health * Personal These categories are not in order of importance and not comprehensive. It’s my personal list and may differ from yours.
I take stock of what has happened the past year in these focus areas. What have I done/accomplished? Did I give it the attention and focus it needed (if not, why not)? How did it go? Did my effort lead to the desired outcome? What have I learned (I use the answer to this question to adjust the course or make necessary changes)? And last but not least, why it is/was important to me?
Even if my effort or work didn’t lead to the desired outcome or result, I take it as an opportunity to learn something about myself, my business, or my approach….
After I have finished Step 2, I have a pretty good idea about what has worked for me and what hasn’t. Marie Forleo writes: “If you know the things that have made the biggest difference in the quality of your life, you’ll be able to make wiser decisions as you plan the next ten years.” (1)
And that’s exactly what I do. I use these insights to determine what I’d like to keep, what I’d like to change, what I’d like to add or what I’d like to eliminate in my business and/or life and write it down.
Adding the “why” helps me stick with my decision(s) or, if necessary, put them to the test. I’m likely to change, circumstances are very likely to change. Unexpected opportunities may present themselves. This exercise is my guide that helps me determine if what I’m about to do is aligned with my goals and values. In other words, is it really worth making adjustments and embracing an opportunity or is it just a “shiny object” that will lose its luster?
That’s it. That’s my way of reflecting on the past year and using what I’ve learned to apply it and set my goals for the coming year.
Give it a try and learn more about yourself and your business. If you have a hard time getting started, call me and we’ll work through it together. Besides learning a lot about yourself and gaining clarity, it’s a fun exercise and absolutely worth your time.
Dreaded by many and needed by all: The Elevator Pitch
Being able to introduce yourself, your project, your company or your fundraising efforts effectively and, maybe even more importantly memorably, is an art. One that many are struggling with, myself included. Instead of using a few crisp, concise and memorable words, we tend to say far too much, don’t focus on the relevant bits and ramble on and on and on … only to watch the interest disappear from our listener’s eyes.
I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it and I’m done with it. The final push to do something about it was the, in my eyes, brilliant elevator pitch of a woman who organizes children’s play areas. This is how she introduced herself: “I’m Evelyn, The Toy Tamer. I do custom playroom organizing.” She added two or three more sentences providing a bit more context and done. Everyone knows her. Not necessarily as Evelyn, but as “The Toy Tamer”.
Thanks to quite a lot of networking events I attended, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs I spoke with, and research on the internet, I found plenty of information about all the important aspects to keep in mind but interestingly also about the length. If you are not happy with your elevator pitch or even worse, you don’t have one yet, let’s read on and create our own.
What is an elevator pitch or elevator speech?
Before we dive into the “how”, let’s have a quick look at the “what”. My version of an elevator pitch: It’s a short introduction of yourself, your project or your company with the intention to hook your listener, make them curious and wanting to learn more. Find some more detailed definitions below and use them as guideposts. But always remember: Brevity is king!
Don’t use jargon. The only exception: when you speak with insiders or peers.
[…] the first two sentences […] are the most important and should grab the attention of the listener.
How long should an elevator pitch be?
Researching this question online, I found recommendations that varied between seven seconds to two to three minutes. In my opinion, seven seconds seem a little too short, even considering todays often criticized short attention span of people. Thinking of an elevator ride, where the idea of an elevator pitch or speech originated from, I would aim for 30 seconds. A good rule of thumb is to have more than just one version and use them depending on the circumstances, your listener and the purpose of your conversation.
Independent of the time, the first two sentences are always the most important ones. You either make your listener’s eyes sparkle with interest or see them drift away. This is of course not always because you don’t have a good elevator pitch, it could simply mean you are not talking to the right person. But it should serve as a reminder that it pays off to find the right words and focus for your intro.
What should be included in an elevator pitch?
Who you are you and what you do: This is kind of obvious, but I mention it anyway. In one sentence, state your name and a brief explanation of what you currently do. Don’t get hung up on titles, they don’t mean a lot, but what you do does. Example: I’m a writer for the technical products division of company A.
What distinguishes you from others and why does it matter? Think in terms of what you love about your work, what special skills you have, how you apply these skills, what difference you make in your company or in your customers’ lives. In short, it’s time to brag. If this is difficult for you, ask colleagues and/or friends. You may be surprised what they will tell you. Example: I translate complex technical specifications into easy-to-follow instructions that anyone can understand at home. I love being able to distill something complex and full of jargon into simple, clear steps and help people master technology.
Who is your ideal client or customer? If you own a business or you work as a consultant, it is important to add who your ideal customer or client is. Questions like company type or organization, values, and size may be relevant for you. If you work with customers or clients one-on-one you may want to be clear about what matters to them, values, age, likes, dislikes, problems they face, etc. Let’s take a coach or consultant as example. I work with executives and leaders, facing problems arising among international teams. I work with leaders in corporations to build trust through better communications and help them reach better results. Expanding on the example of the tech writer mentioned above we may say: I focus on technical companies in the XYZ area…. I love to work with technical startups….
What do you want or what’s next? This part is often overlooked, telling the listener what you want. Are you in the market for a new job that offers you more challenges in your current field, do you intend to switch industries, are you looking for a more senior role in your or another company, would you like to present your services or products, have you heard about a problem you may be able to solve? Before you end your pitch or speech, don’t forget to state what you want and suggest the next step. This could be following up with some additional information, asking for the opportunity to present a product, sending your resume, … you name it. Here are some examples: As a freelance writer: Now I’m looking to branch out and do consulting work so I can apply this expertise to other companies and improve the understanding of their technology. As someone who sells products or services: If you’re interested, I’m happy to send you some information about my products/services. If you touched on some specifics during your elevator pitch offer to mail the information discussed or mentioned.
How to create your elevator pitch
Let’s move on to the next step. How do you determine the specifics, the buzzwords, the hook for your elevator pitch? It’s time to grab a pen and paper or get your computer and start brainstorming. For each of the four categories write everything down that comes to your mind. Yes, I said everything. Take your time, be as specific as possible, and most importantly, don’t censor yourself. There is no such thing as right or wrong.
After you’re done with your brain dump, it’s time to prune. What do you want the focus of your elevator pitch to be? What is the most important information someone else should know about you, your company, or your project? Use these questions to get to the core:
What is your goal?
Who is your audience? (You may need more than one elevator pitch.)
Don’t use industry jargon (exception: if you’re talking with industry insiders).
Where are redundancies?
What makes you stand out in your field?
What special skills do you bring to the table?
What problems do you solve for your company/clients/customers?
What language do your customers/clients use?
Why is what you do so important?
What are your values?
I know it is difficult to delete stuff. We instantly get the feeling of missing out on something, losing a client, a customer, or a job opportunity. That’s why it is so important to be clear about the goal. The more specific you are, the more aligned you are with your values, the more you know about your customers/clients, the more relevant and better your elevator pitch will become.
If you’re like me, I come up with a ton of different versions. I recommend you write them all down and “play” with them. Mix them up, edit them, exchange words, until you find a version you like. I found changing the sentence structure or replacing a word can make all the difference. That’s why I always keep all the versions I created until I’m done.
Ok, we’re not quite done yet. There is one more step I highly recommend you do. Practice, practice, practice. Before you use your elevator pitch or speech, record it, practice it on a friend or with your partner, and ask for feedback. You don’t want your elevator pitch to sound rehearsed or manufactured. In one post I read that you don’t want anyone to feel “networked.” Remember, the purpose of your elevator pitch is to get a conversation started, to make people curious about you, your company, service, or product. You name it. One blogger suggested to use a question as a conversation starter instead of starting with your pitch. The reason being that with this question you may get some crucial information to help you “customize” your pitch.
I’m not ready yet to post my elevator pitch. I started working on it but it’s still a work in progress. I promise I’ll share it so as soon as it’s done. How about you?
Feel free to add your thoughts and recommendations. Or even better, share yours so that we can learn from it.