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August 2021

Nailing your elevator pitch

Write for Results

For the past few weeks, I’ve been coaching a coach — a lovely lady called Andrea. We’ve been working together on her value proposition and elevator pitch. She’s a highly experienced and talented executive and leadership coach.

This week we’ve made some good progress on her elevator pitch. Within that, I’ve helped her to nail what I call her soundbite. Essentially, that’s a 20- to 30-second articulation of the essence of what she does — the core of her work.

I’d urge anybody who’s running their own business or who’s a business owner to nail their soundbite, whether working with me or someone else (this isn’t a sales plug!). It’s so important to do that.

Anda (Andrea’s nickname) and I have nailed that in one paragraph. I want to share it with you because I think it’s instructive to anybody who leads a team or runs their own business.

Anda’s elevator pitch

Here’s the 30-second elevator pitch that Anda and I’ve developed:

“I’m Coach Anda, and I’m a leadership coach. I work with strong, driven leaders who are already good at what they do, but who want their team to be great. If they want to have a great team, however, first they have to be a great leader. That’s why we start with self-mastery. Whatever storms of change are swirling around them and their team, self-mastered leaders stand quietly in the eye of the storm, responding wisely to new threats and opportunities. I help good leaders become great ones, because great leaders lead great teams.”

That’s 94 words, and runs to almost exactly 30 seconds in length. Now I’d like to unpick it, particularly the beginning where she says she works with ‘strong, driven leaders.’

For any soundbite to stand out and not be bland, you need to evoke some kind of problem, issue, pain point, challenge or conflict. What Anda experiences is that strong, experienced leaders come to her, essentially saying, ‘Help me fix my team. I want my team to be great.’

What she does is throws that back to them with, ‘If you want your team to be great, you have to be a great leader.’ I’ve tried to capture that in the soundbite. So what we’re doing is modeling the message.

Juxtaposition in the opening

Within that opening, there’s a mini-conflict, or juxtaposition.

Let’s look at it again, with the ‘good/great’ juxtaposition in bold:

“I’m Coach Anda, and I’m a leadership coach. I work with strong, driven leaders who are already good at what they do, but who want their team to be great…”

Placing responsibility

Then, she throws the onus back on the leader:

“If they want to lead a great team, however, first they have to be a great leader. That’s why we start with self-mastery…”

In Anda’s work, to put it crudely, she helps the leader to fix themselves first, before they fix their team. This makes perfect sense because the leaders sits at the hub of that system, if you like. She’s throwing the ball back into their court.

More Juxtapositions

Then it’s time to bring out the idea of change:

“Whatever storms of change are swirling around them and their team, self-mastered leaders stand quietly in the eye of the storm…”

That’s another juxtaposition, or contrasting pairs of words or phrases. There’s the idea of being in the middle of a maelstrom, but ‘self-mastered’ means quietness, calmness and composure in the eye of the storm.

After that, I threw in the idea of ‘responding wisely’ because one of the things Anda had said to me was that leaders who haven’t achieved self-mastery tend to make reactive decisions. So I wanted to contrast the idea of reacting (a sort of knee-jerk reflex) with the idea of wise responses:

“…responding wisely to new threats and opportunities…”

The elevator pitch’s punchline

Then the punchline is another juxtaposition. At the end of the 30-second elevator pitch, she says…

“I help good leaders become great ones, because great leaders lead great teams.”

In that one line, we’ve captured the idea that she works with both the leader and their team.

A final word on the elevator pitch

I hope this has been instructive, interesting and helpful to you. The bottom line for us, as communicators and writers, is that if what we’re writing or talking about has no inherent pain, issue, problem or challenge, it’s going to be dull.

The reason for that goes back to the ancient origins of drama: conflict creates drama. Without conflict, you don’t have drama. You don’t have interesting theatre, if you like. This came from the ancient Greek dramatists and its wisdom holds true today.

That’s it for now. I’m Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy, helping technical professionals to find their voice, write Human, and get the results they want from the words they write. Be sure to visit my website and my blog for exciting news, tips and wisdom on writing.



Technical writing using S.C.O.T.T.

technical writing scott keyser

On the 28th of July, I ran my first live event on WebinarJam – a one-hour webinar on how to give your technical writing more impact. It included five writing techniques for technical professionals. We had about 90 attendees. If you were one of them, thank you so much for joining us. I loved doing it. It was such a buzz.

Technical writing confidence

We kicked off the webinar with a poll. I asked people to plot their confidence in their technical writing on a scale of one to ten. It was a very typical bell curve distribution, with the rump of people landing between 4 and 7 on the confidence scale. There were no 10s. This is what I would have expected. I guess you could say that anyone who rated themselves a 10 wouldn’t need to be on the call.

Then I shared with the webinar group a really horrible piece of writing. It was a 200-word piece of corporate gobbledygook, as I like to call it. We dissected it. I colour-coded various issues, like Nounitis, Passivitis, long sentences, wording…so that the whole thing was just a riot of highlighted colour.

Then we scored its readability. Actually, according to the readability stats in Word, it scored a Zero. It was pretty damning. What I proceeded to do with the group was rewrite it, using my Big Five Writing Techniques.

That took the readability from 0 to just under 74 per-cent. When we used the Flesch Reading Ease score, the contrast was stark.

Confidence, round two

Then we ran a second poll. I say “we” because I was assisted technically by a great guy called Ben Smith, who’s an expert on WebinarJam. To be honest with you, without his help, I don’t think it ever would have happened. He ran all the behind-the-scenes technology, which was great. I just showed up with the content.

In that second poll, we asked people to plot their confidence again. This time, the overall ratings went up. There were far fewer people in the 2-to-3 and 4-to-5 brackets and many more in the 6-to-7 and 7-to-8 brackets. I think there were even a couple of 10s as well.

That was amazingly gratifying to me, to see that in the space of an hour, we were able to boost people’s confidence in their writing.

The Big Five Writing Techniques

Next, I shared with the group the Big Five Writing Techniques that I had applied. I also imparted a new acronym to help them remember those five techniques.

That acronym?


  • Shorten Your Sentences. Your ASL (Average Sentence Length) should be 15 to 20 words.
  • Cure Nounitis with Verbitis. Nounitis is the overuse of nouns, and we cure that using more verbs than nouns.
  • Omit Needless Words and Phrases. Remove any redundant, needless or unnecessary words and phrases that are not adding any value, content, meaning or information.
  • Turn Your Passives into Actives. Many people are not aware of the difference between the two. As a result, a lot of people (and you may be one of them) write unconsciously in passive voice.
  • Trust in Plain English. That’s the best way to simplify your writing and your language. Don’t equate plain English with dumbing down your writing. The two are very different. Using plain English is about making your language simpler – as opposed to making it simplistic, which is bad. Simplistic means dumbing down and undermining the intellectual rigor and the quality of your content. That’s the last thing I want you to do.

A technical writing offer

Finally, there was a simple offer at the end of the webinar – to jump on a discovery call with me. It’s a no-obligation, non-threatening, relaxed way to get to know you and your writing, for people who might want to explore different ways of working with me and engaging me. Only a few people took me up on that offer, but the whole experience was just brilliant.

I loved sharing my S.C.O.T.T. acronym with people. I’m on a roll, and I can’t wait to do my next live event.

I may also run a writing clinic, where I just show up and you can ask me anything you want about writing. It can have to do with planning, drafting or editing. It can be about one of my 21 writing techniques, editorial policy or how to write winning bids and tenders. Maybe you have questions about pitches, proposals or sales letters. Absolutely anything. I welcome all-comers. If I can’t answer your questions there and then, I will get back to you with an answer within 72 hours.

I think that will be my next gig, and you will be the first to hear of it.

S.C.O.T.T. for all kinds of technical writing

What does S.C.O.T.T. mean for you and your writing?

The acronym S.C.O.T.T. represents the Big Five Writing Techniques that are guaranteed, without exception, to improve your readability if you apply them properly. That may sound like a bold statement, but I stand behind that. Use them in your technical writing, and you will notice a marked improvement in your results.

I am Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy, helping smart professionals to find their voice, write human and change the world with their words. I invite you to browse my Write for Results blog to learn more about how to further improve your technical writing (and all types of writing for that matter). And if you like to absorb your information in audio format, don’t forget about The Writing Guy podcast.