Let’s say you finally get in the room with that funder you’ve been circling online. You muster up the guts to approach, interrupt and introduce yourself. Now what?
We constantly hear how important it is to have an “elevator pitch.” The idea is that you can explain what you do and why it is so important within the time span of a short elevator ride that lasts around 30 seconds.
But in truth, we don’t have 30 seconds. We need to get our point across much quicker than that.
As in, really quick.
Attention spans are dwindling. A study from Microsoft found that adults now have the attention span of eight seconds before they lose concentration and drift off. Blame it on cell phones or the constant barrage of distractions that perpetually inundate us. After eight seconds, we’re out.
Now couple that statistic of an eight-second attention span with the 7/11 rule of first impressions which, in a study by psychologist Michael Solomon, finds that someone will make eleven different judgments about you within the first seven seconds of meeting you.
Let’s look at that math again, shall we? You’ve just found an opportunity to share your work with a potential funder. You have eight seconds of their quality attention, and for seven of those seconds, they will be judging you.
That one little, last remaining second has never seemed so precious. So how can you make the most of it?
In short, a lot of prep work.
Know who you are speaking to.
A little research goes a long way, and with the internet, there is a reasonable expectation that you would have at least googled a prospect funder at some point before meeting them. Whether you’ve researched or heard about this person through mutual relationships, do a bit of legwork in advance.
Practice your pitch out loud.
Especially if you are just getting started, practice is essential. You want to get to a point where you know your story so well that it rolls off your tongue naturally.
Take your pitch off-script.
Have you ever asked someone to tell you about their work? How many times has their response been a canned (and usually somewhat catatonic) version of the mission statement? Here’s the thing: mission statements may be vital beacons for our work, but they are not how we talk in real life. Craft your pitch in a way that keeps it on message but still authentic to you.
Pitch for the ear (and not for the screen).
Rather than try to write a pitch out word for word, try this exercise to get the juices flowing: Outline the primary points you would want to get across in your pitch and record yourself talking about those points out loud. Listen back and transcribe what you’ve said, then brutal about editing it down. Repeat this until you narrowed down what you say to only the essentials.
Weed out the filler.
Get rid of any filler, fluff or stalls, the most common of which usually include “um,” “uh,” “like,” “right,” “does that make sense?”, and “sorry.” Likewise, lose all jargon and acronyms. It may be a second language to you, but you may only confuse people who have no idea what some mysterious initials mean. And if they need to interrupt you to ask for an explanation, you’ve wasted time.
Have a story cache ready to go.
Hopefully, you have an opening to go in-depth and share something meaningful about your work. Humanize your pitch with few exceptional stories that illustrate either the problem you are seeking to solve or the impact your work has had so far.
Know your finish line.
Determine what you want from this person (besides funding, of course). Do you want to know the best way to follow-up with them? Do you want information on their funding priorities? Do you want to know if you would even stand a chance with a proposal? Perhaps you want an introduction to someone who could champion your work in some way. Have a closing action step in hand.
So all of this is actually supposed to happen in one second?
Nope (but if you somehow manage it, let us know!) This is all prep work that can be done ahead of time to get you feeling on top of your game when you have that one second.
What is important is that you become so comfortable talking about your work, it becomes obvious why it should be funded and celebrated.