How to fall in love with your pitch

Your pitch

Forgive me for making some assumptions here. You’re a researcher, deeply focussed on what you need to be doing to prove your thesis and change the world. So thinking about your pitch, let alone falling in love with it, is the last thing on your mind.

Let’s see if we can persuade you that a love affair with your pitch is a serious business. But first, ask yourself if you fit into any of these pitch partnerships.

The Fizzler

You pitch believing your impressive research methodology is all you need to woo a prospective partner. Before you get anywhere near the promise, your intended’s eyes glaze over and they mentally leave the room.

The Commitmentphobe

You know a powerful pitch is attractive and a long term relationship will bring with it great benefits. But preparing and practicing the right pitch seems like such hard work. You leave your potential partner waiting by the phone till the last minute, and then fail to make your intentions clear.

The Adulterer

You pitch, but you’re really on a palm-fringed beach, cocktail in hand, with someone else. It’s an empty promise, even a lie,. when you say, ‘I told you I loved you, didn’t I’?

The Narcissist

In your eyes, your pitch sparkles with genius. But it’s froth, with no substance or purpose. It will only ever be of interest to the person gazing star-struck into the mirror of your own ego.

The Nerd

Diligent, earnest and deadly serious, this pitch is in dire need of a personality transplant. No matter how valuable the content, if it’s just information, it’s a characterless text book, not a riveting story.

Derby and Joan

Comfortable and smug, it does the job. But oh my, it’s boring and few want to spend time in its company.

Ginger and Fred

You’re in a long term, sustainable partnership with your pitch. It brings you purpose, joy, and untold benefits the longer you’re together and working on your relationship.

Five steps to a healthy relationship with your pitch

Get clear on your purpose

Why are you doing what you do, who are you serving, and what difference do you believe in making for humanity? Without a clearly articulated purpose, you won’t attract and retain a relationship with those who might love why you do what you do.

Be curious about your people

Who are the people looking for exactly what you have to offer? What do they want? What keeps them awake at night? What are their issues? How can you help? How will your pitch demonstrate empathy for them?

What’s your intention

A good pitch is flexible and can accommodate different intentions. When you pitch, perhaps you just want an opportunity to follow up the relationship and not an exchange of rings! If you just want permission to meet again, make that clear.

Input your value

Your value is the insight you have into your world far beyond facts and statistics. Share this intelligently with others in your pitch, and you demonstrate how you’ve changed information into knowledge and transformed knowledge into wisdom.

Story

A great pitch contains good stories that fascinate and inform. Science shows us that our brain activity changes when we tell and hear purpose-driven story disposing us to feel empathy and trust and a willingness to co-operate. Isn’t this what we desire in a committed relationship?

When you inject these five steps into your pitch, you can’t but help fall in love with it. It is the sum of all that you are, have experienced, and can share with the world to better humanity.

We’d love to show you how to incorporate these steps into your pitch. Have a look at our latest PowerPitch programs in Sydney and Melbourne.

phd-pitch

Nine writing tips for a knockout PhD pitch

phd-pitch

Researchers know planning lies at the heart of successful projects, and it’s no different with writing your PhD pitch or presentation.

Your pitch is the launch pad for great communications and great results after your research. Without planning, neither of these will get far off the ground.

How you write a pitch on your sophisticated research results can make all the difference to your career, your future, or further funding.

Your PhD pitch starts with purpose and intention and ends with an outcome.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Leonardo Da Vinci.

Whoever you are and whatever you do beyond your PhD — academic, executive, sales person, community activist, journalist, teacher, continuing student — you want your words to carry your purpose and intention to influence your readers to think or act in a specific way:

  • Fund your research
  • Support your cause
  • Read your results
  • Attend your course
  • Publish your material.

What do you do if you’re not a natural writer? How do you overcome the dreaded writer’s block? Where do you find ideas when your brain is empty?

Plan writing your PhD pitch with a proven formula

You fall back on a proven formula. You plan.

Let’s set out the nine vital questions you need to ask and answer to make not just your pitch but also every writing project a winner. If you want to boost your effectiveness at writing in a professional setting, these will help you tame the tyranny of the blank screen or page.

By addressing these questions upfront, you create a writing plan that will:

  • Help you decide whether your pitch is feasible
  • Expose the gaps you must fill before you proceed
  • Give you a clear sense of purpose and direction, and set out a logical roadmap to make the writing easier.

You wouldn’t dream of exploring an unfamiliar country, region, or city without a map. Writing’s no different. Before you pen or key a word, ask and honestly answer these vital questions:

  1. Why are you about to write this pitch or presentation? (Purpose)
  2. Who are you trying to reach or influence? (Targets)
  3. What do you want them to know and think? (Intention)
  4. What do they know about you and your project right now? (Your value)
  5. Why should they listen to what you’re about to write? (Credibility)
  6. How can you best support your pitch to get your message across? (Medium)
  7. What do you want them to do after listening to your pitch? (Result)
  8. What is their attention span? (Will they respond to long, detailed descriptions, or punchy features and benefits?)
  9. What kind of language will they readily understand and respond to? (Should your tone be logical, descriptive, narrative, provocative, teasing, humorous?)

You’ll discover that answering these questions in the planning stage gets you more than half way to your goal. They will help you deliver a power-packed PhD pitch or presentation that those you want to influence will understand and respond to.

If you want to learn how to write a serious pitch for serious results, you can find out more about our next PowerPitch program for PhD candidates here.

Five myths about presenting or pitching your PhD research

pitching your PhD research

There’s no doubt that pitching your PhD research in person-to-person dialogue is a great form of persuasion, when you are working at high levels of intensity.

But as you mature in your research and professional life, you’ll find the need to pitch your research or present your findings to larger groups of people becomes more pressing. Can you seamlessly and with simple clarity get your complex message across?

Or will you fall into the trap in which so many highly educated and credentialed academics perish? In other words, explaining the methods of your research, the how, instead of its purpose, the why, and the outcome, or the what.

Speech isn’t the same as writing

Don’t let anyone tell you that speech writing is just writing by another name. True, it shares some characteristics of writing:

  • Ideas
  • Words
  • Communication (the art of getting people to act on your ideas).

But speaking has powers that writing lacks. It gives you tone, gesture, movement, emphasis, variety, and timing. And you don’t have to be Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King to learn how to prepare and deliver persuasive talks in any format or setting.

Write to be read, speak to be heard

Start with the basics—few people write like they speak, or speak like they write. Even hard-to-fathom teenagers know that a text message needs a different structure to a phone call or a face-to-face. (And if you’re anywhere near my age, be grateful!)

What makes writing and delivering a speech the second most feared fate next to death?

It’s fear itself. Would you believe though, that most of the fears that haunt speaking and speakers are just not true?

These are the five big myths about pitching your PhD research:

  1. It’s inherently stressful.
Most new experiences involve a dose of uncertainty. Remember getting on to a bike for the first time? But like millions before you, you can learn how to write your pitch and deliver it with ease, with the right tools and approach.
  2. You need an orator’s skill and courage.You just need to give the audience a little value. They don’t want perfection. They want to take away something interesting; a fact they didn’t know, or a new angle on something they did.
  3. You won’t be able to say everything you need.
The best pitches and presentations say only a little. But they say it in strong, clear, plain language. Too many speakers, especially those starting out, try to cram too much into their performance. Just a few main points are all you need. More, and you risk losing yourself and your audience.
  4. What about stage fright? 
If you’re well prepared—not over prepared—you’ll be poised, confident, and calm. You’ll have your speech either fully written out or in easy-to-follow notes as a back up. What’s the worst that can happen? You lose your place. So you apologise, and fall back on your script. Often the audience doesn’t even notice. Be honest, and few will really care. Most will actually sympathise. Some will even encourage you with applause.
  5. The audience wants to see blood.
The opposite’s true. They’ve invested time, energy, (and possibly money) in your performance. They want you to succeed. And they don’t need very much to satisfy them. No matter how small the fact or thought, if it makes them think, feel better, or feel differently, you’re a winner.

Lets dissolve those five myths about presenting or pitching your research into four secrets to writing and making a great speech:

  1. It’s only as stressful as you make it
  2. You don’t have to say everything—one main idea and two or three supporting points are enough, as long as they give value
  3. You have great value and profound stories to share
  4. Your audience wants you to succeed.

There. Who said you couldn’t pitch your all-important PhD?

Contact us here to wipe out the tension and map out the success of your next pitch or presentation challenge with our PowerPitch training for PhDs.

Five keys to powerful storytelling

When there isn’t powerful storytelling, what is there?

A while back I heard about a seminar for pregnant women on how an unborn foetus might be affected by a women’s mental wellness. I was keen to learn about this to help a pregnant friend going through a tough time. The expectation in the room suggested a high level of interest in this emerging and valuable topic. We seem more aware, but not necessarily more knowledgeable, of how much can affect growing babies from conception to birth.

Two keynote speakers took the stage; one an eminent professor of paediatrics from a leading maternity hospital, the other credentialed too, but as we were to discover, driven more by passion than academic rigour.

Death by PowerPoint

The professor who spoke first, put up her PowerPoint display. It came up in tiny type, with her whole address, page, after page, after page. For most of her presentation she stood with her back to the audience and read it. Delivered from that position, her speech was mostly incoherent for her audience.

We were a room of amateurs, not aspiring paedatricians, so we couldn’t understand the jargon, acronyms, and other slide-borne presentation mysteries.

She had misread her audience.  It was a missed opportunity, as she did not elicit any emotional response in her audience, either for the unborn or its mother.

Stories build trust and empathy

The second speaker took the stage. For 40 minutes he held us captivated. He enrolled us in story after story about pregnancy, unborns, mothers, depression, and anxiety, which evoked in his audience concern for the foetus and compassion for its mothers.

He demonstrated the science behind his stories, tying everything back to the central topic of the mother’s mental wellness during pregnancy. This was good communication and it was riveting.

In today’s fast and information-overloaded spaces, purpose driven storytelling is a vital skill, we’d all benefit from, both as presenter and audience.

Here are some simple keys to turn a sleep-inducing, dull, and possibly, insulting presentation (you can read blog or proposal here) into one that leaves your audience leaning in, wanting to know more, using powerful storytelling.

5 keys to powerful storytelling

  • Know your purpose, your audience and your intention.  What is your purpose? Dow is your presentation delivering on it? Who is in the room. Your words are much more likely to land if your message is addressed to their problems, issues, or interests. What do you want them to think act or do as a result of your presentation?
  • One topic, three key messages. You have a wealth of information and value to impart. To often, presenters make the mistake of including everything, cramming it all in, at speed, or in minute type on a slide presentation. Your audiences will catch nothing, not even the one vital point you are so qualified to make
  • Become a story teller. Stories that are emotionally charged and character-driven engage and reduce the gap between you and your audience, creating intimacy and trust. We are all designed to learn from them. The science proves that key messages will fall on receptive ears when carried by a tale.
  • Think about cadence. The rhythm of language and its delivery can move people to think entirely differently about what they’ve heard. It’s no surprise that Shakespeare continues to influence people with his poetic prose centuries after it was written.
  • Become a critic. You’ll enhance your communications if you learn to listen carefully to others. What moves you, what doesn’t? Why does one speaker engage you and another not? Why do you remember a lot about one presentation and recall little or nothing from another? When do people tell stories and how does it work for you?

If you’d like to embrace powerful storytelling, it’s my pleasure to invite you to the next PowerPacked Stories training day.

How stories inspire people to think, act and buy

How do stories inspire people?

What’s the record attendance for which event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground?

You might take a stab at 100,000 plus for an historic Australia versus England Test match, or a Carlton – Collingwood Grand Final. You wouldn’t be even close.

It’s still a Billy Graham preach-a-thon. Upwards of 130,000 people crammed Australia’s cathedral of sport to hear the master speaker tell his stories they wanted to be inspired by.

How do you inspire people to think, act, or buy? Do a Google search and at the top of the search is an article that starts with … ‘Let me tell you a story.’

SmartCompany says marketers’ most common complaint is ‘Why don’t prospects get what I’m saying?’

SmartCompany also says the biggest inhibitors to brilliant sales are dehumanizing jargon and statistics. Genuine storytelling has re-emerged from decades of silence as every business’s most effective and inspiring sales weapon.

Where attention is our rarest commodity, Forbes magazine reminds us that successful communication must have these six attributes: appeal, clarity, directness, stickiness, credibility, and transparency.

Hello great and inspiring storytelling.

Can’t do it?

When you were a child, you couldn’t swim, ride a bike, play an instrument, speak another language. Great storytelling’s a skill. You can learn it, and get to love it.

Uncovering your stories, and learning to share them with people who want to hear them is real and do-able, not warm and fuzzy.

Why you’re here, and what you stand for

When you know and love your story, others see you through a different lens. They learn who you are through the windows of your eyes. You spotlight your principles and values. Your beliefs announce themselves loud and proud. You show you’re a leader and you demonstrate all the hallmarks of trust – competency, capability, disclosure, transparency, and authenticity.

You need a little courage to begin, just as you did getting on that bike, or jumping into that pool. And it’s never too late to line up your essential ducks — purpose, principles, people, product and positioning — and get them flying in unison so you can tell stories that inspire.

Becoming a good storyteller is a reward in itself. The bonus is it demonstrates leadership and gets your message across. Great stories make people listen, remember, and act.

If you would like to learn how stories inspire people, you can book the next PowerPacked Stories workshop here.  Or how to use story powerfully in your pitch, check out our next city-based workshops here.

What if you are having a bad hair day?

Do you feel it too? The capriciousness of an ever-changing business landscape debunking ‘must do’s’ at the speed of a bullet train?

Changing algorithms. Meaningful interactions. Categorised content.

Our ever-decreasing attention span is apparently relegating long form posts like this to the museum of once cherished, business practices in favour of talking head videos. Oh no! Really?

We are constantly confronted by the urgency of the latest best practice, because when it takes hold, the babble about it is pervasive.

This doesn’t always equate to rigorous debate of how appropriate whatever ‘it’ is as a necessary tactic for business. Still, it does seem that as soon as ‘it’ arrives, there’s a flurry of early adopters, leaving many of us to wearily accept that ‘it’ must be pursued.

What to do with bad hair days then?

What if you’re happy to don your professional garb, lippy up and manipulate your crowning glory into something that can be seen in public on the days you actively engage out there, coaching, training, speaking?

What if for the rest of the time, you happily live the solopreneur dream, slopping around in track pants with a bird’s nest on your head?

Until a blink of an eye ago, this may well have been when you were at your most creative, writing, posting, and engaging, protected by your sometimes, several years’ old avatar.

Now, to conform to these changing algorithms, the need for meaningful interactions and to bridge the gap created by a decreasing attention span, we must front up, and be seen and heard, not just read.

Stories to the rescue

We know that attention is scarce. Most of us also know that reading stories transports our minds to new places.

Paul Zak, renowned for his work on the science of narrative, says this transportation is a remarkable neural feat. We read a story we know to be fictional, but ‘the evolutionary old parts of our brain simulate the emotions we intuit the characters are feeling and we feel those emotions too’.

The question then is how can we effectively use story to keep our audience entranced, engaged and emotionally involved, so that our content is categorized as high value, signals meaningful interaction, and satisfies the changed algorithms? And still have bad hair days!

Four story telling principles

You start with principles that make stories so compelling they transport your reader.

Purpose and principles – stories told from clarity of purpose and principles – spark a passion that can literally change the world. (Tell your story. Save a life).

Context – for what purpose do you tell stories, to whom and for what intention? What is the significant value you bring to your stories that can make a difference?

Unearth your value – within your bodies of knowledge sits your unique value. This value shared intelligently with others through stories, enlightens your listeners and can change their lives.

Empathy and recall – tell stories that are character-driven and emotional-charged, and you affect the brain activity of your reader, creating empathy, a sense of safety, belonging, inclusion, trust and a willingness to co-operate.

Idea worth sharing

Yes, you can do all of this in a video. Most people aren’t. They are imparting advice, not telling stories. Therein lies a huge opportunity for you, bad hair or not.

Telling stories that sell the sausage. And sizzle.

 

We sat in the back of a small city fringe café buried in a conversation about telling stories.

Swee Mak, Innovation Professor at Melbourne’s RMIT University, relayed a dilemma faced by leaders too often focused on a narrative selling an idea rather than reality. He pondered if storytelling had dissolved into marketing.

‘We live in two separate worlds’, he said, ‘one in which you must mean what you say and the other where you put ideas out without bringing them to life. {Some] consultants and philosophers, do a lot of communicating without being accountable.’

Leaders sell the sizzle without the sausage

As a professional engaged in helping people tell their stories for the right purpose and best intention, I find it challenging to reflect on how story is used this way. When I consider the current spate of world leaders selling the sizzle with no sausage in sight, Professor Mak’s observation multiplies in impact.

He emphasised the primacy of marketing when supporting a credible product or service offering, but queried its legitimacy when it promoted a narrative without substance.

‘This is the problem for thought leaders’ he said. ‘They must straddle the spectrum, to excite people, but then deliver on that excitement.’

In a world of research, Swee is constantly exposed to stories of new ideas selling people on what is possible. However, he argues such innovations must only be based on sound principles and an established track record.

‘There is no point going into the nuts and bolts if people are not inspired and energised to move. But a lot of leaders cannot span that spectrum. They are either nuts and bolts leaders or dreamers whose ideas come and go.’

Two forms of communication

Swee explained that these two types of leaders offer two forms of communication: one disseminates instructional information, and the other influences and excites.

In an operational world, the instructions (how) often come without the reason (why), and in an ideas world the reason (why) often has no instructions (how).

Instructional communication is often top down, stifling innovation, and influential narrative is too often lacking in mechanics.

Either way, one part is missing or incomplete and as Swee said, the stories people tell around either are rarely well crafted.

Therein lies the real opportunity.  Leaders need to learn to tell purpose-fit stories for maximum effect on their audience.

If you would like to find out how to polish your stories – the sausage, not the sizzle – join me at the next PowerPacked Stories workshop. You can find out the details here.

Micro stories with macro potential

 

It’s a funny thing. A person can be consumed with the passion about what they do, resolved about the niche in which they work and invested in their brand.

While they can talk up a storm about the gems in their offer, their human story disappears, the micro stories, all gems too, left untold.

A passionate environmentalist, determined to educate people in understanding the impact of their footprint, discovered micro-fiber cleaning systems. After a great deal of research, she put together a plan to create a chemical-free cleaning company.

As a person she sparkled. She carried with her all the freshness of the dappled forests she wished to save. In her hands, micro fibres gleamed with saintly goodness.

She launched her business with enough knowledge, and dedication to her cause to fill a book.

But when it came to communicating it, she couldn’t tell the many hundreds of micro stories that would bring the magic of her enthusiasm – so much greater than a cleaning company –to life.  She was stuck at the features and benefits of her offer. It was as if the mere thought of being in front of an audience, on and offline, suffocated her creativity.

The power of micro stories

There was no end to the micro stories she could tell about saving our environment starting with the story of the heros in her saga—her, the planet, and the brilliant technology behind micro-fibers, and the villain, the dangers of chemical cleaners.

She could tell dozens of them about how chemicals in the house affect us all and what we should know about their residual effects; how they affect people with allergies or conditions such as asthma and eczema.

What about the stories of the people for whom her chemical-free cleaning services were making a difference?

This constant flow of stories told authentically in her voice, would reach, connect and engage with householders keen to make a difference in their footprint, and for those who were dealing with health issues that would literally change lives.

With consistent storytelling, she had all the right attributes to launch a community, excited by her and her dedication – keen to join in her cause to reduce humanity’s footprint while living in a chemically-free home.

What micro stories are you not telling about you, your passion, knowledge and expertise that could build your business and community and change your part of the world?

To find out how to unearth your micro stories and learn how to tell them to build business, join me in an intimate Why Your Stories Matter Workshop on Monday May 28 in Melbourne.  You can book here.

 You can also contact me by email sandy@sandymcdonald.com, or on 0408 935 905.

A story told is worth a thousand speeches wasted

a coutnry festival

An hour later it was heaving!

Recently, we attended a country festival. It was a perfectly still, sunny day. We sat in the cool shade of an enormous oak tree, listened to some excellent folk music, and watched the local folk buzz with excitement as they worked and celebrated their district’s biggest day of the year.

The festival showcased the pride of local wineries, cheese makers, olive and honey farmers. The careful work of the regional crafters glowed in their stalls.

We tasted some delicious wine including a spectacular sparkling Shiraz and a buttery Chardonnay, while listening to the wine maker’s stories.

Life on the land

As city folk, we’re intrigued by the serendipity of life on the land – the vagaries of the weather, willy willies tearing up newly laid bird netting, the perversity of cockatoos who’ll strip a vineyard of its grapes for the hell of it, and not eat a single grape.

Later I amused myself drawing analogies between these tales and running a business. I’ve experienced a few willy willy and cockatoo-like clients over the decades.

Where were the stories?

At the appointed time, a regional dignitary came to the stage to open the festival and thank everyone involved.

There was no doubting her pride in, and enthusiasm for the event. But still the words rolled on – the hard work, the unification of the community, the importance of the day to the town and the region . . . until my attention wandered.  Attention is after all, a scarce commodity in our brains today.

Hard work is hard work. We all do hard work. In that hard work would have been dozens of personal stories, about the people who had ideas and implemented them, hardship and hurdles overcome, arguments patched up, real collaboration, even life changes.

We all belong to communities, but what was it about this festival day that really bound the locals together? What were the stories that spoke of their humanity, courage, adversity and joy?

It’s in telling these tales that she and others had the opportunity to stamp and solidify the energy of the day into the identity of the region, in both the local, and the visitors’ minds.

We recall character-driven stories invested in emotion months even years later. There was no reason for anyone to remember what was said beyond the moment. We don’t want to hear, nor do we remember political platitudes.

How many million such speeches stifle us everyday. How many speakers miss the opportunity to tell the stories that could impact on people’s attention, perception, and actions for years to come?

If you are a dignitary and you’d like some help, before you make your next speech, to unearth your stories as the most powerful tool in your communication arsenal, let’s talk.