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Why I failed, and you don’t have to.

Have you ever pitched your dream? I mean, really got the chance to tell the right people your idea?

 

I have. And it didn’t turn out quite how I expected.

Let me set the scene for you: Years ago I was working passionately on a project supporting female coffee farmers in Rwanda.  I was part of a leadership training at the time, and I was dying to tell everyone about my project, and see what support I could gain.

 

Suddenly, and without warning, an opportunity appeared.

The facilitator said: “I invite 3 people to come and pitch what they are working on, now, on stage.”  My hand shot up, before I had a chance to stop it.

 

So I did the best I could. I filled up my short time with hand movements, walking around the stage, messages filled with emotion and names dropped here, there and everywhere.

 

Claps, head nods my way. My pitch had gone great.

Or so I thought.

Next up to speak was an actor. “Raise your hand if you have ever had a teacher that made you feel so small, that to this day you are not confident in the subject they taught you?’

 

Every single person in the room raised their hand.

 

He carried on, speaking about his project and how it related directly to that pain point that everyone was now vividly remembering. I was enjoying his speech, thinking my job was done and getting ready to go back to my networking.

 

That’s not what the facilitator had in mind.      

Once everyone was done, he asked the audience to stand in front of the person who had resonated with them the most.

 

50 people in the room…. 2 of them stood in front of me.

 

The ‘teacher’ guy got a line so long that it literally went round corners.

 

I was devastated.

What did this mean? That my project had no value? Why didn’t they line up for my dream?

 

You want to know why?

Because the other guy LISTENED. He found a pain point that everyone in that room would relate to, and he zoned in on that before he even started relaying his message. He spoke to individuals, not to ‘potential supporters’, like I did.

 

That’s why people heard him. Because he heard them, first.

 

Painful lesson.

But it has served me, again and again. And I want it to serve you too. Next time you have a speech, or ANY message that you want to get across:

 

Slow down.

Stop thinking about what you need for a few minutes, and think about how this message can help the people you’re talking to.

 

How does it relate to them, what’s happening in their world right now that you can tap into? I guess what I’m trying to say is:

Listen first, if you want to get heard.

 

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