The 17 second story

Twice in the last two weeks I’ve had 30 minute calls with people who are exploring interesting new vehicles for raising capital in the nonprofit sector.  Yet in both cases, it took 17 minutes (I counted) to get to the core of what the opportunity was.  We lost more than half the time in the lead-up, and this with the people whose job it is to sell the story.  (And whether you’re a CEO or a job-seeker, it is your job to sell the story).

This is an easy trap to fall in to, because you want to dig in to the nuts and bolts so much.  But when you lose the headline, you lose the inspiring vision, you lose the thing that’s going to give this thing legs.  You don’t have 17 minutes, you have 17 seconds.

This isn’t a post about nailing the 17-second elevator pitch for your organization – who you are, what you do, why it matters – although everyone from your Board to your CEO to each employee must be able to articulate this effectively.  In a world where you’re constantly leading and innovating, where you’re tearing through projects because you’re getting so much done, you have to keep on developing and refining and changing your 17-second story.  Nailing this consistently is one of the arts of leadership.

It’s about having, at your fingertips, the answer to the same question in many guises: “What is the most pressing question you’re facing right now?” or “what’s your greatest need?” or “what keeps you up at night?” or “what’s new”?

Any of these in 17 seconds.

So, what’s new?

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