Thursday, January 15, 2009

The elevator pitch

When your staff is introduced to someone new, one of the first questions they’re usually asked is, “So what do you do?” A career in microfinance is unusual, which should make for an interesting conversation. However, many people have no idea what microfinance is, and frequently this question is followed by a long, awkward explanation. Instead of wanting to learn more, the questioner wants to run in the other direction.

Your staff members are the face of your MFI – wouldn’t it be nice if they could answer this simple question in a way that was understandable and interesting? In a way that boosted your MFI’s brand image and made them feel good about their jobs?

Your staff are capable of shining when asked about their jobs, but this sort of "artful bragging" doesn't come naturally to everyone. The good news is that it can be learned, by practicing an "elevator pitch."

So called because it's short enough to be used when riding between floors, an elevator pitch is a 30 second answer to the question, “What do you do?” A well-crafted elevator pitch interests others because it allows the speaker to show what they feel passionate about. It's an authentic statement, rather than a shallow boast. Developing a pitch is easy... once you've figured out what excites you about your work!

Action item: Elevator pitch exercise

Time: 15-20 minutes

Purpose: Enable staff to verbally promote your MFI’s brand image and themselves.

Materials required: Paper and pens. White board or poster paper.

Step 1: Invite participants to individually write down the answers to the following questions:

1) What do you like/love about your current job?
2) How does your job use your skills and talents, and what projects are you working on right now that showcase them?
3) What successes are you most proud of from your current work?
4) What new skills have you learned in the past year?

Notice, these questions are about the staff member. Answering them will allow your staff members to speak authentically about what excites them about working for your MFI.

Step 2: Review with staff your MFI’s long tag line – a sentence or two which describes your MFI in 25 words or less (see prior post). Ask participants to list the key words/phrases from the tag line, and list on a white board or sheet of poster paper.

Step 3: Based upon the above, invite participants to write out their personal answers to these two questions:

1. What excites you about what do you do?
2. What excites you about what your MFI does?

Note that I’ve rephrased the questions. Though your new friend in the elevator might just ask you what you do, you should answer what excites you about what you do. This gives you a chance to shine (and to make the MFI look good too)!

Step 4: Ask a few volunteers to read their answers out loud and discuss them. Are the answers short? Interesting? Authentic? Do their answers about the MFI fit with its brand image?

Step 5: Invite staff to practice with each other, asking and answering the questions, “What do you do?” and, “What does your MFI do?” Make sure they keep the answers under 30 seconds each!
So, please join me in discussion -- what's your elevator pitch?

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