Much of the success you have in life, both personal and professional, will depend on how well you “pitch” yourself, or more simply how well you “sell” yourself. A personal pitch, or elevator pitch, should tell the story of you. Each of us have different versions of who we are depending on who we’re with or what we’re doing. The pitch you give to someone on a first date will be much different than the one you give to a potential employer and very different than one you might give to the person you may be sitting next to on the bus. A bad personal pitch can cost you more than just a second date, it can cost in many ways: entrance into your first pick of colleges, a job interview, or even a promotion. Your first step in delivering a successful personal pitch is to understand that, in its purest form, a pitch is simply about selling yourself. So, don’t sell yourself short to a prospective employer by winging it, take time to invest in the most important story of all…yours!
I have the pleasure and honor to teach business communication and confidence-building skills to over 100 urban youth each year. These rising stars are part of various workforce development programs run by local nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nothing is more fulfilling for me than to see the growth and confidence develop in these entrepreneurial young students in just a few short months, many of whom would never envisioned a future in today’s tech industry. Whether you’re hoping to secure an internship or you just want to refresh your old pitch, this article will help you get your new story flowing in the right direction.
An elevator pitch should be easy because it’s about the one thing you have the most knowledge about – you. But, it’s not easy. We get nervous, forget our lines, don’t like to talk about ourselves or simply don’t take the time to practice and get it right. If you’re a nervous speaker, check out my article about “3 No-Sweat Ways to Improve Your Presentation and Delivery”.
Review the tips below to get yourself ready to deliver your winning pitch.
Incorporate at least two or three of the following questions into your pitch:
- Who are you?
- Why are you here?
- Where do you come from?
- What experiences have you had in life that make you the person you are today?
- What is your passion?
- How were you inspired to join this program?
- What do you hope to get out of this internship?
- What has your experience been like so far?
- What does this internship mean to you?
Once you’ve selected some of the questions above, sketch out a basic talk track. Think of it as an agenda to a presentation or the table of contents at the beginning of the book. For example:
1. What makes me, me.
2. The day that changed my life.
3. Senior year in high school.
4. My passion and where it comes from.
5. Future = uncertainty.
6. Opportunity knocks.
7. The future looks bright!
Just like in your favorite story or book, there is always a moral to the story. The moral of your story should be a primary focus that represents a lesson learned or a key message you want to convey. It should also be meaningful and memorable, so think about it and use this as a technique to end your pitch. After all, the whole purpose of a pitch is to make people curious enough to want to learn more about you!
One question I always get while sharing these techniques is what’s ok to share and what’s not ok to share in terms of personal background. My advice is to always share your personal journey. If you’ve experienced academic or athletic success or gone through a rough patch, had family issues, lived with poverty, felt different, or struggled in some other way, find the silver lining and share it with others. Don’t shy away from your past, own it.
The Finishing Touch
- Make it conversational
- Speak in complete sentences
- Always be authentic
- Tell your story
- Give supporting examples (be specific)
- Nonverbal communication matters too: step forward, look at them not your feet.
Remember, it’s only 60 seconds. That may not seem like a long time but when you’re in front of a bunch of strangers, it can feel like a lifetime. So, practice! Even better, practice OUT LOUD using your real voice, not the one used when you’re trying not to wake up your parents.
The future of business will depend on a company’s ability to attract and hire the most talented and diverse workforce. Diversity is not only about the color of our skin or gender, it’s also about where we come from and the experiences and ideas we bring to the table. It’s up to you to make sure they see the value that you offer. Your story will begin to show potential employers (and others) what makes you unique and special.
The opportunity in front of you is yours to lose, so take the time to plan, prepare, and practice your pitch. After all, you never get a second chance to not give a crap about making a good first impression.
P.S. Don’t forget to ask them for their pitch because they too should be selling themselves to you!