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What Scott has created at Live Your Legend is mind-boggling. He creates inspiration, the challenge to dream big and bold, and the tools to make all that a reality. But most unbelievable is the community he's developed of people who are passionate about doing something great, and helping each other achieve that."

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4 Steps to Crafting, Testing & Perfecting Your ‘Everyday’ Elevator Pitch

General Sherman - Scott wants to climb biggest tree on earth

“Even the biggest ideas in the world start with the smallest of conversations. Say something.”

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Time-sensitive Update: This week (Aug 25-29) I’m part of a free virtual conference on How to Speak Like a Pro. There will be presentations from 25 influencers, business leaders and TED Speakers. My topic is “How to Give a TEDx Talk that Goes Viral” and will be live for 24 hours on Wednesday, August 27.

Nothing has transformed my career or the LYL movement more than taking the stage and learning how to present an idea. There’s also probably no faster way to becoming a trusted expert and getting people to happily pay you for your talents and passions, so I know this topic is huge for many of you.

And the best part is that the conference is totally free if you watch it live this week.

Click here to grab your free ticket.

And since nailing your topic, idea and elevator pitch is so central to influencing an audience, I thought we’d have some fun with that today. Let’s dive in…

*****

“So, what do you do?”

“Um, I’m in sales. What about you?”

“I’m an accountant.”

Sounds like the start of a mouthwatering conversation, eh?

I’ve never liked this question, especially since it’s one of the first things that often gets brought up in a new conversation. It assumes you are your job (which you’re not) and it opens a topic most people don’t enjoy talking about.

But here’s the beauty – you can answer it any way you want.

It’s the perfect chance to test out your ideas. So is just about every interaction.

Why answer “I’m in sales,” if what you’re actually excited about is your side project to help people find confidence through fitness (or whatever)? Hiding behind a label that doesn’t represent who you are does no good for anyone – and certainly not for your chances of making your difference in the world.

Instead, treat every interaction as a micro experiment – an opportunity for discovery.

That’s where your elevator pitch comes in.

Everyone needs one, and it’s not just about some pitch to get investors and customers. It’s simply a way for all of us to share and test our assumptions and ideas in real time with the people we might be able to serve.

Important: You don’t even need a specific grand idea or vision – at least not at first. You just need to get in the habit of sharing the things that excite you. And give them a chance to lead to the places you’d never expect.

Every person you meet and discussion you have is an opportunity for discovery, if you decide to treat it that way.

Here are 4 steps to crafting, testing and perfecting your ‘everyday’ elevator pitch:

1. Create a minimal viable pitch.

Don’t over-think this. For starters, we want to have an interesting response to the “what do you do” question. You could write and rewrite your pitch until your pen runs dry, but it’s next to useless until you get it out in front of someone. All you need is enough to test. Ideally, have a few versions ready to go.

Your pitch (and follow-up discussion) should answer some or all of the below:

  • What am I excited about?
  • Why am I excited about it?
  • How will it help people? Who does it serve?
  • How does it uniquely tie into my story, passions, talents and/or experience?
  • Why do I care and why should the world care? (Watch my interview with Simon Sinek for a review on the importance of Starting With Why.)

The real goal of our pitch is to talk about something you’re excited about and get a feel for how others react to it.

These days my response to “What do you do?” goes something like this:

“I have a business that helps people find and do work they’re excited about.” And lately I’ve been adding “and surround themselves with the people who make it possible.” Then I might mention that we have virtual and in-person communities all over the world. Or I could take it a totally different direction, depending on their reaction.

I don’t mention anything about a blog or even a website. That wouldn’t tell them anything. I just leave the focus on what I actually care about and how and why I’m trying to help people. Usually that’s enough to pique their interest enough to ask a few more questions. Then we might get into specifics.

Take a few minutes to answer the questions above and sketch out a minimum viable pitch. Keep it to 1-2 sentences, 4 max.

If you’re totally drawing a blank on what you’re excited about, here are two resources to check out:

  1. The Speak Like a Pro virtual conference I’m presenting at this week. It’s totally free if you watch it live. Get a free ticket here.
  2. Our First Steps to Doing Work You Love workshop

2. Test it – a lot.

This is where the real learning happens. What seems crystal clear to you while hiding behind your whiteboard or notebook is often anything but for those around you.

We assume people will “get it” like we do. That’s almost never true. And the more you share ideas with others, the more you’ll realize this and have a chance at explaining things in a way that actually connects.

Treat every interaction as a testing ground. Experiment with friends, family, colleagues, peers and mentors. Just realize that their relationship to you makes them biased, which can be good if it keeps them from sugarcoating feedback, but bad if they can’t offer good constructive criticism.

Then get in front of as many unbiased strangers as possible. If you know the specific type of people you’re trying to serve, spend as much time with them as you can. What really matters is getting the idea out of your head and into the world as soon and as often as possible.

Notice the way they react to your first sentence or two. Do eyes glaze over or do they lean in with excitement?

Also get virtual with it: Share it on your blog, Twitter, Facebook or whatever social channel you prefer. Post it on our LYL Facebook group. Ask for feedback and compile as many responses as possible.

3. Rapid prototype it in real time.

Do this as in-the-moment as possible. If your first pitch clearly doesn’t resonate, then modify the next few sentences. Try to keep going until something connects.

If you’re at a party or event, you could rapid prototype this dozens of times in a night, and you’ll learn more than months of spinning an idea around in your own head. Have a few modified pitches you want to test and have fun with it.

Then as soon as your conversation is done or event is over, take a mental note or write down a few ideas about what connected and what didn’t. What confused them? When did their eyes go glossy? When did they lean in, smile, raise their eyebrows and ask for more info?

4. Refine, repeat and “perfect”.

Steps 1-3 are a constant cycle. I still find myself explaining things in different ways depending on who I’m talking to or what I’m working on. I still get the blank “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about” stare every now and again. I welcome it. I learn from it. Then I test out something different.

It’ll never be perfect. That’s the fun part. Every interaction with the people you’re trying to serve is a new data point. What you thought you knew last week is probably slightly different than what you believe you know now, which may be altogether different a year from now.

Constantly create, test, learn, refine, repeat, and it’s pretty tough to fail.

Embrace the Never-Ending Experiment

LYL just turned three, and I’m still learning like crazy from all of you.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve done 17 one-on-one user interviews with some of LYL’s most dedicated readers and customers. I spent 30-40 minutes on Skype with each of them hearing their story, finding out what they’re trying to achieve and listening to their current struggles, all to see how LYL could best serve them going forward. (This post was inspired by Mike, one of the LYLer’s I chatted with).

Their responses (along with hundreds of yours from surveys, comments, etc.) will determine the next phase of LYL, and of course, the way we communicate our value (i.e. our elevator pitch) through future articles, tools and the new LYL website we’re working on.

It’s been incredibly enlightening and a ton of fun – I cannot wait to share what’s to come!

For LYL, it’s always been a constant refinement process. Create, test, learn, refine, repeat. You tell me what you need and we do our best to provide it. That’s the beauty of having an open line of communication with the people you’re trying to serve.

And the reality is that everyone has that opportunity, at least on a micro scale. You might not have a global audience of thousands (yet), but you do have people to interact with every day. Bounce your ideas off of them. Test your hypotheses.

Start identifying yourself with who you want to be and the difference you want to make.

Stop responding in a way you’re not proud of.

Get in the habit of talking about the ideas that set you on fire.

Just because you work a sales job you can’t wait to leave doesn’t mean you ever have to talk about it.

No one wants to hear about a job you don’t care about, anyway. We want to be surprised, to be inspired, to have an unforgettable conversation. You can show up with an answer that shuts a conversation down or share an idea that lights it up. That is your responsibility – and an incredible opportunity.

If you want to live a life pursing work and ideas that excite you, then you have to get in the habit of talking about exciting things.

You have to start identifying yourself as the person who pursues things you care about.

The more you represent that to others, the more you represent it to yourself. And the more committed you’ll become. Just like a person who’s known for being a health nut wants to be seen drinking a kale smoothie, not scarfing a chili dog. If you become known as the person building towards things that matter to you, that’s how you’ll show up in the world.

Every interaction is an opportunity to end up somewhere you never imagined when you started.

Even the biggest ideas in the world start with the smallest of conversations.

Say something.

So…what do you do?

Leave us a comment with your minimum viable pitch – anything goes, and try not to over-think it!

-Scott

And if you need more help…

Be sure to check out the Speak Like a Pro virtual conference this week. The lineup includes 25 world-class authors, experts and TED speakers sharing how to influence and inspire an audience. So much of it starts with the elevator pitch.

I’m speaking on Wednesday (8/27) about How to Give a TEDx Talk that Goes Viral, which will be live and free to watch for 24 hours.

The whole conference is totally free if you tune in live this week – grab your free ticket here.

Or you can purchase the recordings to watch later on if you want.

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Image credit: Taken on a backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park last weekend, as I got a little perspective from General Sherman. By volume, it’s the largest known living tree on earth.

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Door #1 or Door #2? The Decision that Could Haunt You Forever…

Door1 or Door2

“You can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.” – Jim Carrey

The Decision that Haunts Us

I try to be as real about things as possible around here, so you have the best and most realistic chance of doing the work you can’t not do.

That’s why last week I wrote about the dark side of entrepreneurship, and the week before I covered our unbelievable possibility.

But here’s the the thing.

Each of us has one real choice to make, and today, I’d like you to make it. There are only two options…

Door #1: Pursue a life and career that matters to you. (Seems risky.)

The trouble with this option is that it will suck sometimes. Whether you’re joining a big, inspiring company or building your own thing, sometimes it’ll be scary. There will be sleepless nights, lots of challenges, bipolar-like emotions, intense decisions, high stress and all kinds of uncertainty. There are some long hours, frustrating discussions, money problems and at times you’ll feel you’re not making as much progress as you hoped. And after all the diehard dedication and hard work, you could totally fail or get fired.

or…

Door #2: Pursue a life and career that doesn’t matter to you. (Seems safe.)

The trouble with this option is that it will also sometimes suck. It’ll be scary, there will be sleepless nights, lots of challenges, bipolar-like emotions, intense decisions, high stress and all kinds of uncertainty. There are some long hours, frustrating discussions, money problems and at times you’ll feel you’re not making as much progress as you hoped. And after all the diehard dedication and hard work, you could also totally fail or get fired.

Either way, things will be hard.

And that’s the beauty of it.

Odds are that if you spend your life slaving away doing work you can’t stand with people you don’t like to support a cause you don’t believe in, you’ll get to have all those same experiences and emotions. The same goes for having a job or career that’s just “okay”.

Both doors come with highs and lows, and neither will always be easy. That’s just how life works.

But there is one significant difference between the two…

With Door #2, there’s a good chance that in 10, 20 or 30 years you’ll wish you had spent all that time, effort and life doing something that actually mattered to you – making some type of a difference for yourself and those around you.

In an uncertain world, Door #2 comes with one near certainty – regret.

And I see that as the biggest risk of all.

You’ll wake up in a decade and wish you would have chosen Door #1. And you’ll know you didn’t because complacency got the better of you. Because you weren’t sure of the first steps to take.

All Door #1 requires is an extra level of intention and awareness.

Know who you are and make decisions based on your own ideas, vision and values as opposed to someone else’s.

That is the only real difference. Otherwise the paths behind the two doors could look identical.

But you’ll know the difference. You can probably feel it right now.

But you wanna know the best part?

You can still open Door #1 right now.

But the longer you wait, the harder the knob is to turn.

As Jim Carrey says, “You can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.”

So, which will it be?

Lean back in your chair for 60 seconds right now and think about it.

It’s not about risking it all.

In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

If you’re with us, write “Door #1″ in the comments. If you’re not, then tell us how we can help.

Remember, you have tens of thousands of us in your corner, from all over the world.

That’s why Live Your Legend exists.

And something tells me that’s why you’re reading this.

-Scott

 Image Credit: Taken by me while exploring Santorini just before sunrise. See more of the adventure on Instagram

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