How many times do you find yourself in personal-pitch mode? Probably more than you might think. Whether it’s a pitch for new business, for additional responsibility, for the chance to manage a project or fill a position at a new company, or simply introducing yourself to someone new, you are in the position to authentically engage and persuade others in a confident way.
As we know, business, and the community as a whole for that matter, are based on a series of connections and networks. These connections, crucial to success, are begun in part due to the strength of your personal pitch. So what is it?
It’s Introductory: In many cases, you’ll be introducing yourself, your qualifications, interests or background. Sometimes, you may be presenting a new idea, proposal or opportunity. Regardless, your pitch is something new for your audience.
It’s Brief: In the midst of an increasingly digitized lifestyle and communication landscape, the attention spans of humans are getting shorter and shorter. A recent study by Microsoft suggests that people now generally lose attention after 8 seconds. Wow. Even if that isn’t a totally accurate assessment, it’s clear that we only have a precious few beats of time to grab the attention of our audience. A personal pitch should be able to be given in less than 2 minutes.
It’s Personal: Ok, duh. But think about it. The personal pitch integrates elements of your individual perspectives and experiences in a way that triggers a connection, empathy, interest or curiosity in the listener. This type of pitch communicates your connection to an idea in an emotional and meaningful way.
It’s Goal-Oriented: The reason it’s a “pitch” and not a “story” is that it persuasively aims at a particular end. A personal pitch has a sales type of energy to it. It’s trying to bring about an envisioned outcome, one that requires buy-in or validation from the audience.
However and whenever you might find yourself in personal-pitch mode, the outcome can be improved through a little practice and a focus on a handful of important factors. If you’d like to pitch yourself confidently like a master, here are eight elements to consider and cultivate:
- Give a solid opening: If you’re interacting with someone for the first time, then remember to give a firm handshake, make eye contact and pronounce a clear introduction of your name. These may seem like simple elements, but are powerful verbal and nonverbal queues in establishing a solid and confident connection from the start. If you’re pitching to someone you already know, then you’ll need to think of quick ways to reestablish yourself and your rapport with that person in order to begin on a firm footing.
- Position the “who”: In the case where you’re introducing yourself for the first time (and not just pitching a new idea to an existing contact), you’ll need to do it quickly and clearly. Provide a sense of who you are in a unique way. Be intentional about how your self-description will connect with both the topic of the pitch and the target listener. As a starting point, think of three to five single words that describe your core modalities, such as “Connector. Creator. Thinker. Catalyst. Innovator.” Choose the words or angles that fit best with each pitch, while keeping in mind that less is more.
- Narrate your experience and credentials: You’ll want to telegraph an overall storyline of your background. A good outline to keep in mind includes these three elements: a) where you’ve been, b) where you are now, and c) where you’re going. If you’re pitching for a new job or additional responsibility, you want to hit on a few salient points that illustrate your experiences and skills. Remember, though, to keep your story arch at the 10,000-foot level, to hold the attention of the listener and leave space for them to ask detailed questions.
- Incorporate humor: This may be one of the most important elements of your pitch. Why? Humor is one of the fastest pathways to rapport with others. It causes us to laugh — an outward, physical expression of joy and happiness that chemically changes how we feel. It creates a connection on an emotional level. It also communicates a position of confidence. Humor can be tricky, however, as it has to be natural and authentic for it to land the connection. Think about the elements of your background narrative, or aspects of your identity, that lend themselves to a playful or humorous comment.
- Be aware of pace: Making a personal pitch can be nerve-wracking. And when you’re nervous, the natural tendency is to speed up. A measured pace not only makes you easier to understand, it also shows that you are confident and comfortable (even if, in reality, you’re not!). Practice talking at a slightly slower pace than normal to see how it feels. Even if it seems too slow in your head, it will probably come out as a steady and normal pace, especially in the heat of a personal pitch moment.
- Confidence is key: I’ve mentioned confidence now several times. The challenge is that you can’t think or hope yourself into…poof!…confidence. Ultimately, it’s a byproduct of belief and love of self. Here are a few practical ways of boosting your sense of confidence. First, focus on your string of accomplishments. We don’t often reflect on how far we’ve come, because we’re impatient and always want to be farther along than we are! Next, make the intentional choice to silence your inner critical voice. We all have one of those, and we all struggle to set it aside. Doing so can be powerful. Finally, adjust your body language. It actually has a direct link with how confident you feel. Try “power posing” right before a pitch. This means adopting the stances associated with confidence, power and achievement. Learn more about “power posing” in this blog or this TED talk.
- Include a close-and-ask: Too often, we end a personal pitch situation with a certain apologetic or sheepish energy. End the pitch with a powerful open ended question that brings the conversation into future action or consideration, such as “What do you think about this idea?” or “What hesitations, if any, do you have about me taking on this role?” or “What do the next steps look like?”
- Be yourself! Avoid sounding mechanical or scripted: No matter how much you prepare, you’ll always sound better if you let the message flow naturally, in your own voice. I’m a strong believer that reading or memorizing talking points just won’t provide the delivery you desire. Your preparation is about soaking up and internalizing all the relevant elements of your pitch — putting them into your toolbox. Then, in the moment, you have to trust yourself to say the right things at the right time. Dance in the moment!
- You probably find yourself in personal pitch mode more often than you think. No matter when and where it occurs, the personal pitch helps establish important connections in business and community. That can be the difference between you getting a new opportunity or not.
- An effective personal pitch has to capture the attention of another person in a way that is engaging, persuasive and authentic.
- At its most basic level, it involves four elements: It’s introductory; It’s brief; It’s personal; and It’s goal-oriented.
- The outcome of a personal pitch can be improved through practice and focus on the important factors outlined above
Try This Out:
- Practice your personal pitch with at least two new people per month. Hone the parts of your pitch that don’t quite feel as comfortable. If appropriate, have the courage to ask for feedback.
- Ask friends and family to help you determine one or two words that best encapsulate and describe you. That may help position your “who” statement in ways you might not otherwise consider.
- Build the narrative about your background and experience by making these three lists: a) where you’ve been, b) where you are now, and c) where you’re going. Create a short version and long version that links the points together cohesively. That way, you can be ready to pitch based on different time limits and attention spans.
- Practice mindfulness of your inner critical voice, and consciously set it aside for a more empowering monologue that leads to increased confidence.
- Rehearse strong closing statements and questions. Voicing them out loud can make them feel more natural when you’re in the moment of ending a personal pitch.