We don’t know how it happened, but you have just found yourself in an elevator with your local mayor and philanthropists Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. You have three minutes to pitch your brilliant idea focused on addressing the pandemic and economic disruption. To succeed with your mission to impress them with your bold idea for saving your city (and state, nation and planet), consider a very long sentence that describes basic communication in six components. Allow me to explain.
Who says what to whom for what reason through which process with what results?
What this 14-word sentence details is everything you need to know about communicating with those leaders and stakeholders who hold the success of your (or any) brilliant project in their hands. As you contemplate connecting with Mayor Albert, Mr. Gates and Ms. Winfrey, be very clear about the following:
Who? The “who” is you, or more accurately, who is doing the reaching out. When you begin to reach out to the trio, be very aware of what we call your “public face” and who you represent.
Says what? What is your message? You may have many things to say during the 3-minute elevator pitch, but focus on the top three most important issues. You may wish to share that, 1) You have a brilliant idea. 2) Based on research, there is a significant need for your brilliant idea. 3) Support can make the brilliant idea a reality.
To Whom? Be very clear about whom you need to connect with and why the relationships matter. If your idea is related to city food security policy to ensure that every family has access to food pantries, focus on Mayor Albert. If your idea involves technology to improve health outcomes in a pandemic, turn to Bill Gates (as he and his wife fund innovation through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). If you seek philanthropy to develop the model for ending the digital divide and ensuring that every child in your state has access to state-of-the-art web-based education, talk directly to Oprah (and use eye-contact, she likes that).
For what reason? Be very clear about why you are pitching an idea to these people. You need to convince them in minutes that your brilliant idea is needed, doable, measurable and meaningful.
Through which process? You, like billions of people, want the ear of Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. You not only wish to be heard, you want them as a partner to support your brilliant idea. It’s all about personal style so just follow the golden rule: be polite. Be prepared with a one-pager that clearly describes your project and why it’s important. (Mr. Gates might prefer a 60 second pod-cast.) Have reliable data to make a point. Listen closely to what your potential investors and/or collaborators say. Your mission, in a first meeting crowded in the elevator, is not about getting a “yes” — it’s about exploring a connection.
With what results? The goal of any meeting, even a quick elevator ride, with persons of influence should be to make that magical connection, share vital information and explore mutual interest in a brilliant project. (By the way, with folks like Mr. Gates, Ms. Winfrey and the mayor, it’s their “people” who may become your biggest supporter, so never be dismissive of the support staff who often wield great power.) After your elevator ride you should assess what took place — or at least what you think took place. Follow up with a thank you note, flowers and chocolate. (Mayor Albert loves those thin mints.) If you pitched your brilliant project with clarity, earnestness and intelligence, you might hear from the trio again. If not, get back to that elevator with the classy ridership.
The world needs your brilliant idea funded.
The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.
Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Any questions? The mission awaits: www.tenvitalservices.org