This is the final installment in our series introducing you to Claxon University, where smart nonprofits go to learn how to use better words to create a better world.
Claxon University’s first course is Words on a Mission. Each of the twelve lessons in the course asks a fundamental question a nonprofit needs to answer in order to develop high-impact messaging. In each post in this series, I’ve shared what the question was, along with a snippet from the video lecture.
If your interest has been piqued by these videos…check out Claxon University’s Vimeo channel where video snippets abound! And also learn more about the Claxon University community. It’s a pretty awesome community for dedicated, hard-working nonprofit professionals who want to do everything in their power to make the world a better place.
Yesterday, a group of brave staff and board members from an awesome organization (that shall remain nameless to protect the identities of those involved) topped off a day of word nerdery with some good old-fashion role playing.
I have done role playing with countless people and groups and I’m yet to have someone say, “Oh thank goodness. We finally get to my favorite part–role playing!”
No one likes role playing. It’s awkward and you feel like a dork. And you’re encumbered with the belief that the goal of practice is perfection, which is unattainable so why bother.
Practice isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress.
Let’s play this out. Let’s say you’re sprucing up everyone’s elevator pitch. You’ve just crafted a new core message (that one sentence you want everyone to embrace and say with zeal). Everyone really likes it. You know it conveys the One Thing You Want People to Know About You and Your Organization (title case because that’s what you’re after with your core message).
This is as far as most groups go. They write the message, then stand back, fold their arms, and talk about what they like and don’t like about it. They don’t practice it.
Talking about your message and saying it are two very different things. The first one keeps it “in theory”–the next time you find yourself in a situation where you could use it, you won’t. Because you won’t remember it. Because you haven’t practiced it. And without practice, there’s no progress. And without progress, there’s no change.
The point of finding world-changing words for your world-changing work (here’s a little rant on that) is to use them, not think deep thoughts about them while staring at them on a page or computer screen!
Thus, practice. Thus, role playing.
Role playing is particularly hard for board members who talk less often about the organization. They will resist. They will grouse. They will all of a sudden need to plug their meters and/or run to the washroom. Let them do all that. And then have them role play.
The group yesterday eventually transitioned from talking about their new message to saying it. They personalized it, infusing it with their passion and personal experience. And when they did, they knocked my socks off and blew my hair back. They were awesome.
Practice may not make perfect. It does, however, make for a whole lot of progress.