For most leaders, presenting is a skill. Like anything else, it takes training to learn it. Just like the nuances of being an effective advocate for your industry. Or like the differences between being a single contributor versus a manager of people. In fact,
– It’s rare that three key elected officers or board members from the same association have the same idea of what is valuable to a member.
– It’s rare that the same three leaders have the natural ability to sell the value of your association to reach a diverse member audience.
– It’s often that a leader who gets a little bit of guidance turns into a better leader, a better communicator, and a person that members want to listen to.
This is a story about seven directors, one Association Executive and a Communications Director. And one new message. Imagine THIS is your organization.
Without any coaching, leaders typically step to the microphone and begin to talk about their association’s services (“We provide X”, “We are a group of X”, “We do X for you”). They don’t mean to; they just don’t know a better way to explain what you do beyond focusing on your strengths.
The Texas Education Technology Leaders (TETL) scheduled an intentional gathering in a room (it was actually a Zoom room) to review their new value message, to figure out together how to use it to build even more credibility and rapport with current and future members. It turned into the best gift the association could give to their leaders: to teach them how to advocate for the association like they advocate for their industry at the Statehouse. Using the words of their value proposition.
TETL’s leadership team prepared themselves for the upcoming launch of their new value proposition using ideas from each other and four simple steps to plan a talk.
It was a meeting with purpose. Leaders already knew and understood the new value proposition for themselves, but beyond being proud of their message, it took the group being together to verbalize to each other what the new message really means. Beyond the words, this practice session provided the essence of the association’s value to members, told from 9 different perspectives. The benefits of the run-through were significant:
1. Even seasoned leaders re-learned how to distinguish a feature from a benefit. Most people are comfortable relaying services and accomplishments (like unmatched education, or acknowledged advocacy efforts, or exclusive tools). But the light goes on when they learn how to turn those tools into an emotional benefit. The best salespeople (and leaders are salespeople for your organization) go beyond the main service to what it means to their audience. To build rapport requires distinguishing ‘what we do’ from ‘what the member will be able to do because of what we do’. Here’s a real-life example:
A leader came to the microphone and started with these words: “We provide networking” followed by the various places that the member could network with other members. “We have conferences”, “We have forums”, and “We can help you make connections with each other”.
Leaders know this networking is their one big ‘thing’. But members need to know what networking means to them, personally. Why networking is a benefit? Leaders coached each other on a subtle alternative to present the same benefit in a more relevant way. “You (prospective member) have a powerful network at TETL that connects you to other members to find answers to almost any problem you face, from someone in a similar situation. Members tell us that having this support system outside of your building helps them solve problems in their district more effectively and faster than what they can do on their own.”
They said “we provide networking”…and a lot more about what networking can do for a CTO to influence the prospective member that TETL provides a solution for problems they face in their work.
2. Mastering took trial and error. We asked each leader and the Association Executive to use their value proposition to develop a 2-minute talk as though they were talking in front of a group of prospective members. As they listened to each other in a safe environment, they firmed up their own words that they would use. And then use again and again!
3. Practice made them comfortable. They learned that winging it is not a good option! Now that the leaders have an idea in their head of the key messages that make for a convincing talk, they’ll follow an easy planning process to build a relevant, credible message to members and prospects. They learned what to do before they ever write a word or step to the podium.
Nine members in a room. One new value message. Agreement about the answer to “Why our association matters” in words the member will understand. They not only know the words, they now know how to wave the flag so their members will follow.
If you want your incoming leaders to get comfortable with your message, every year, get some help to provide training for them. nSight calls it The Message and the Member.
If your association doesn’t have a formal value proposition to guide how you talk to members, the book Breakthrough Value will take you through the process of discovering your unique value.
Finally, if you’re not sure if you need a value proposition or a new way to communicate, the Diagnosis Deck can help you! Check it out here!