Practice Makes Perfect – but what if you have bad form?

4487_1096621469122_1634166193_208878_1206885_nOne of my greatest joys is watching my son play baseball. One of my greatest frustrations is watching him drop his back shoulder in the batters box. His warm up swing is great, but once he steps in that box – BOOM, he drops it. Oh, he had been told about this, but he kept doing it – over and over and over again. I finally video tapped him at a couple of games and at the batting cage. I also video taped his warm up to show him the difference. You see, I’m just a mom, what would I possibly know about baseball swings? So I had to show him proof positive. He finally realized that he was practicing at the batting cages dropping his shoulder. We’ll see how it translates when the season starts…

My point is this, you can have an elevator speech and practice over and over and over again – but what if what you want to come across is not coming across at all? The man in the mirror is not going to tell you that. Practicing does not come by just telling your speech to someone else, it comes with asking questions. “What does that say to you?” “Did it feel too long?” “What was your first impression?” “Did I leave you wanting to ask a question?” You must practice on another person and ask for their feedback. As uncomfortable as it is, you must ask.

If you are not going to ask someone for feedback, you might as well practice with your dog. Who will pay very close attention, but then want a cookie for listening. And if your listening partner says, “Oh, that was fine” then you ask them questions. They may feel uncomfortable with giving their opinion, so you must let them know that constructive criticism is what you are striving for here. One question to ask them after the “fine” comment is “so what do you think I do?”

I meet people every day who want me to help them with their resume but they are afraid. It is not that I am scary (I am not!) but they are afraid to ask. They do not want to come across as not knowing what they think they should. You have performed certain skill sets for a number of years; you know your skills and how to do your best. But that does not automatically mean that you can translate that in the written word. We speak differently then we write – at least we should! The hardest thing in the world is quantifying ourselves into a mini sales pitch on paper. For me, that is why the first thing that we do is talk. Same with your elevator speech, you know the lingo, but maybe it is not translating to the rest of us.

This is what I would like for you to do today: find a friend, a neighbor, a relative, a former colleague, a teacher – someone that you can say this first sentence to: “Hey, could I ask your help with something?” Just tell them that you have your elevator speech and you really want to know what it sounds like on the other side. People generally do want to help, but you have to ask! Then, thank them, and start practicing not dropping your shoulder.

Lisa K McDonald

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