Corporate messaging and branding is big business. Corporations spend millions developing the strongest messages to reflect their brand, highlight differentiators, and attract clients.

Why Don’t Individuals Do the Same?

Clients, bosses, and investors need to know what YOU do. They need to know what makes YOU different from your competition. They need to understand your value to THEM. So why do individuals go into the world hoping they say the right thing at the right time for the right audience?

Some people call it an elevator pitch; others call it a personal tag line. Either way, the exercise of crafting a strong elevator pitch can be incredibly valuable even if you never use it, which you should.

Here are 3 reasons you should put some effort into preparing a strong elevator pitch.

 1. Opportunities present themselves every day. 

You may find yourself sitting next to a potential client or influencer at the airport or your local Starbucks. If you do, are you ready to make yourself memorable (in a good way)? Are people who ask “What do you do?” wanting more info and asking to meet up again? Most of us are not great off the cuff, so having your message, keywords, and phrases that articulate your value at the ready means you are more likely to create traction from those opportunities.

2. Preparation allows you to edit.

When we want to sound valuable to someone, we tend to go on and on. We want to make sure we mention all the great things we do, where we have worked, and who we know. There is never a situation where doing the majority of the talking attracts clients or even get you a next meeting. By taking the time to decide in advance what is most important to your audience and how to stand out from your competitors, you can edit out all the added jibber-jabber that makes people’s eye glaze over.

3. It works.

If you take the time to craft, edit, and tweak your pitch, you will pique their curiosity, make yourself memorable, and begin to create rapport. The added bonus is that you will feel more comfortable talking not about yourself, but your value. That’s where the money is.

So what does your personal messaging say about you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Send Monique your question for next month’s Q&A column!

I was recently asked why I think communication is so critical to leadership.  I was surprised by the question.  It seems like common sense to me, but then I have always been an active communicator. (Yes, that means that sometimes I’m too chatty – we all have something to work on!)

But when I sit back and think about my clients who aren’t comfortable with communication, I remember this doesn’t come easy to everyone.  We all know professionals with leadership titles, but no one truly follows them.  Why is that?  It breaks down into one of three reasons.

These are the 3 keys to effective communication and powerful tools to use as a leader.

 1. Connection

Some people don’t know, and others don’t care, how to establish and build rapport.  Creating a solid connection with your team, your board, or your clients is the first step to success.  It all stems from their needs, their pain points, and how they need to be reached.  Strong rapport builds a firm foundation on which all communication can travel.  Without it, you might as well be talking to yourself.

2. Clarity

Once you’ve established connection, you can convey your message.  But for it to be heard, understood, and absorbed, it needs to be clear and compelling. Some senior professionals don’t take the time to create clear messaging or paint a picture of their vision.  If people don’t know what you stand for and where you are going as a leader, they aren’t likely to follow.

3. Credibility

A great rapport and compelling message can quickly get washed away when credibility is lost or maybe wasn’t established in the first place.  A leader’s credibility is their calling card.  It is a sign that they can be trusted.  This comes down to a magical mix of confidence, humility, intention, and most importantly authenticity.  All it takes is one thing to undermine credibility.  It could be as simple as a weak or inconsistent presence.

Becoming a great leader is also about becoming a great communicator.  If you aim to achieve the former without working on the latter, you may find yourself no followers.  Everyone can improve their communication skills, even a communication coach, so don’t think you can’t or that you don’t need it.  Make the effort, put in the time, and you will be richly rewarded.

What are your communication challenges or successes as a leader? Share with me in the comments.

Send Monique your question for next month’s Q&A column!

Office Phone Call

Photo Credit: Donovan Graen

“Most of my meetings are by phone. How do I build rapport with clients I have never met? - Sales Manager, IT Company

This a big challenge for many professionals and it’s growing. Here is one thing you can do to make it easier: close your eyes.

It is hard to remain present on a long call. Our eyes tend to wander, and we check email or look out the window. So shut it down by closing your eyes. This will feel very strange and probably look stranger, but it will make a huge difference. Once your eyes are closed, you will be more present for whoever is on the call. The listener will sense the difference, you will be more engaged and have more to take away for next time.

“As part of a recent promotion, I now have to lead staff meetings. I know how much everyone hates them since I felt the same. How do I make my staff meetings something my team doesn’t hate?” VP of Operations, Marketing Company

Hating regular staff meeting is nothing new, and we have all experienced it. You need to begin with asking yourself why everyone hates them.

  • Some staff meetings go on too long. So set a time and stick to it, even if that means cutting off your own agenda. It’s your job to keep it on time.
  • Some  staff meetings seem pointless. Make sure there are action items, however small, attached to each agenda item. It will make attendees feel as if something was accomplished.
  • Some  staff meetings are just boring. So mix it up. One month might be a breakfast meeting. Another could be a good news/awards only meeting. Another might include a guest. Keep them guessing.

We all know the saying, ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’.  And well, it’s true.  So do you think about the first impression your business is making on your customers or that you are making on clients or co-workers?

I recently walked into a new restaurant for a quick lunch.  I was having a bit of a bad day and needed a quick break.  As I walked into the restaurant I was met by two smiling faces.  They greeted me with a warm welcome before taking me to my table.  As I sat waiting for my meal making some notes for an upcoming presentation, I realized that the friendly welcome had perked up my day.

Why Had Something So Simple Made Such a Difference?

The truth is I was lost in my own thoughts. Considering the day I was having, those thoughts were less than positive.  The greeting took me out of my head and opened me to the generosity and positivity of someone else – all with a smile.

This sort of thing happens to us every day, only the greeting is not always happy and welcoming.  Sometimes we walk in to the restaurant, a store, or even a meeting and are greeted by less than happy faces, and that affects us.

So how are you showing up?  Is your bad day affecting the first impression you make? Is your staff making your customer’s day?

The Answer Is Simple: Smile.

Train your staff to smile.  Creating the right energy with a good first impression can make your day.


Watch Your Tone: Virtual Relationship Building

Photo Credit: Samantha Celera

Many of my clients face the growing challenge of creating rapport and managing relationships virtually – especially over the phone.

Creating and maintaining a strong relationship with clients, co-workers, and vendors is hard enough.  When you are on the phone, it becomes twice as hard.

Here is one key communication tip for how to make it a bit easier:

Watch for tone – not just yours, but theirs as well.  When we are on the phone, our personality, credibility, and even likability are determined by more than what we say.  Our tone of voice is much more important.  If you don’t believe me, put on a foreign film, close your eyes, and try to determine the conversation strictly based on tone.  Since you can’t understand what they say, it is their tone that you remember.

Now turn it around.  You can listen to the tone others use with you.  It can give you valuable information.  If your client sounds like they are happy, their tone will be open and not rushed. Everyone is chattier when they are in a good mood. This is great time to get to know them better and find some common ground. If your boss’s tone is abrupt and distracted, it is good idea to keep your message concise and to the point. They are in no mood for bad news, new ideas, or long conversations.

Tomorrow on your calls, make notes about tone and let me know what you notice.

The Rolling Stones have been touring since the mid-60’s.  If you see them in concert you will hear classics like Satisfaction and Jumpin Jack Flash.  They play the same songs, over and over, and somehow they seem fresh to the audience.

But what do you do when you are trying to raise money for your start-up?  You go from investor to investor giving the same pitch. You can do it in your sleep, and so it gets stale.  And a stale pitch kills one of the key ingredients for a great pitch – passion.

How do you keep your investor pitch fresh for yourself and, by extension, the investors?

Do’s and Don’ts for Keeping Your Investor Pitch Fresh

Do: Make Quick Updates to Your Investor Pitch

The good news for start-ups is that the business is constantly growing.  There are always new customers, additional revenue, or new verticals.  You can keep your pitch and slide structure the same, just update the revenue or mention the client meeting you have next week.

Don’t: Completely Rework Your Investor Pitch

Some people do this regularly, never giving the same investor pitch twice.  This is the WORST idea.  Part of a great pitch is being comfortable with it, having your story down and knowing what is on your slides. This makes such a difference in highlighting your knowledge, your confidence, and your ability as a leader.

Do: Have a Chat

Deliver your pitch to a friend who hasn’t heard it.  Only – don’t use your slides. Don’t stand up and don’t worry if you forget something.  Just sit down with a cup of coffee and have a conversation.  A pitch is a dialogue, not a monologue.  Having a relaxed conversation with a friend will help you stay relaxed when you pitch, which is always more engaging.

Don’t: Mull It Over

Practicing in your head is the opposite of having a dialogue.  Quickly running through your pitch can get you into the bad habit of just running through your pitch even when you are with investors.  This makes you sound like you’re bored by your own pitch.  And while you may be, they don’t need to know that.

Do: Practice, Practice, Practice. Then Stop.

I tell all my clients that practice is the single most important part of a successful investor pitch.  No athlete would compete without practice.  Why are you any different?  Practice often and out loud.  But then, stop.  Give your brain time to rest, and your pitch will sound more conversational.

Don’t: Memorize

Some entrepreneurs think practice mean memorize. They insist on memorizing a script instead of just practicing their story.  They take all the life out of the pitch.  After 15 or 20 pitches, what already sounded dry and monotonous,  sounds boring and uninteresting.

So make small tweaks, keep it conversational, and then give your brain a break.  This will keep your passion, your story, and your investor pitch fresh and engaging.

Want to learn more about how to create a compelling pitch? Sign up for my upcoming FREE webinar on December 3rd: Articulate Your Value. Even if you can’t make it on the day, you’ll receive a recording and slides afterwards.

Improve Your Body Language: People WatchingLast night I took myself out for a nice dinner. I enjoy sitting with a good glass of wine and people watching.  It is a great way for me to study body language.

Body language speaks volumes about who you are and what you are thinking.  Poorly communicated body language can occasionally undermine your message, your presence, and how you are perceived by clients, colleagues, and even your boss.   The good news is you already speak body language.  But do you speak it well?

If not, how do you improve your body language?

You can’t watch yourself,  so watch others.  Becoming more aware of the signals others are sending will help you become more aware of your own body language.  Sitting alone in a restaurant, an airport, or even at your local Starbucks, you have a great opportunity to sit back and watch other people’s body language.

If you are watching more than one person, try figure out their relationship – first date? married?  colleagues? What are they talking about? Are they mad? Happy?

Watch people in line for coffee.  What do they do for a living? Are they in a hurry? Are they confident? Nervous?  You will answer these questions  by reading body language.

So sit back and enjoy the view.  What you learn about body language may help your presence, your image, and your career.

When we are meeting new people we constantly have to articulate who we are, what we do, and why they should remember us.  The truth is most people are terrible at this.  Why?

Here are the top 3 reasons why elevator pitches fail to make an impression:

1.    They don’t think before they speak.

A good elevator speech is not something that happens off the cuff.  It is something you need to put time and effort into.  Companies have elevator speeches but they are called tag lines.  Do you think Nike spent any time or effort on ‘Just do it’? Exactly, so why would you present yourself to potential clients, employers, or influencers with no effort?  Take the time to craft, edit, and practice your elevator pitch.

2.    They aren’t memorable.

The point of an elevator pitch is to get more time with someone.  To accomplish that, you need to be memorable. When I ask clients to give me their quick elevator pitch, they tend to give me a rambling list of facts that are so generic they could apply to anyone in their field.  Why would that make them memorable? Think about what makes you different and how you can sound memorable.

3.    They make it all about them.

Newsflash – your eleavtor pitch about you is not about you.  It is about them and how you can be valuable to them.  Stop thinking about why you are great and starting articulating your value to them.

For more ideas on how to create a deliver a great elevator pitch, join me on December 3rd for a FREE Webinar.  Articulate your Value – The Secret to Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity. See you there.

Last week I saw this video of the Chevy spokesman present the award World Series MVP Award to Madison Bumgarner.  The video made the news not just because of Bumgarner’s play, but because of the awkward, uncomfortable and unpolished delivery by the Chevy spokesman.

Giving a short speech and speaking ‘off the cuff’ is not as easy as it sounds.  We think we don’t need to give it much thought; it is off the cuff after all.  But as this spokesman has come to realize, a poorly delivered short speech can undermine your message and your credibility.

Here are his three biggest mistakes.

For some reason despite only speaking for 1 minute, the spokesman felt the need to not only have notes, but look down at them several times.  Notes are always a bad idea, especially on camera.  Anything that breaks the eye contact with the camera or the other participants makes you look nervous and edgy. This is true even when there is no camera and you are simply speaking at a staff meeting.  Even if you are nervous, you certainly don’t want to look it.  So leave the notes at home.

People think if they just need to make a few brief remarks, then they don’t need to get their thoughts together in advance.  Wrong!  You need to take the time to decide what message you want to get across, ensure the message is clear and succinct and finish by editing.  Yes, editing.  There are a few gifted people who can get away with truly speaking ‘off the cuff’. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

The shorter the speech, the more you need to rehearse.  When you are delivering some brief remarks there is no time for ad-libbing, getting off track or trying to remember what you need to say.  Rehearsing is the only way to make sure you get your message across just as you prepared it.  That is the secret to making it look like you are great ‘off the cuff’.

So next time, don’t leave it to luck, or even your notes. Instead, prepare, practice and then deliver a great short speech.

Not to show my age, but I remember when music videos took over the music industry.  No artist could get a number one hit without a video.  Often, the video was better than the song and that made the hit. Video gave context to the song and allowed listeners to build a connection with the artist. The same is still true today. There is a reason why YouTube is so popular for both work and fun.  People feel more connected to information, ideas and people when watching videos.  It can be a powerful tool. So why not use it to your advantage. Facetime instead of calling.  Leave a Skype message instead of emailing.  Any opportunity you can take to connect more closely with a client, colleague or prospect, the better.  Rapport is very hard to build, and even  harder to maintain via phone and email is even worse.  So take the extra minute or two to connect with video and feel free to send me one with any questions you may have.

Now I have to go and make some videos.