Have you ever sat down on a wobbly bar stool?  Your first reaction is, “Wo!”  That’s how I feel when my clients think their work is done once they’ve crafted a winning resume or business plan and a killer cover letter. They are forgetting the third leg of the stool: how you talk about yourself and your work so that others want to listen.

As I was driving home the other day, I heard radio host Michael Baisden congratulate Ebonee Monique, this year’s winner of Black Enterprise’s Annual Elevator Pitch competition.  She started a ghost-writing company called Mama I Want to Write. So of course, as soon as I got home, I searched for her winning pitch.  Listen, some people open a bottle of wine when they get home. Others start cooking dinner.  I watch elevator pitches.

As the host of the competition said, “If you had one chance, one shot to sell yourself, what would you say, how would you say it, and how effectively would you deliver it?”  Great questions!

What can we learn from her performance? Here’s my list:

  •  Work on your introduction like a potter molds clay.  Keep massaging it, dropping non-essential words and adding vivid ones.  For example, instead of saying “someone who has a good idea for a book,” Ebony said, “Someone who has a dynamic idea for a book.”  Also, your introduction should take up 10-15% of your overall speaking time – which in this case is 10 seconds – and it should grab your listeners’ attention.
  • Make it easy to understand.  Most people you will speak with about your job search or your fledgling business will be busy people. They don’t have time to hear every little amazing detail about what you did and how you did it. You only have time to give them the most salient details that set you apart from the crowd.
  • Use the “You” voice.  Many of us make this mistake without even realizing it. We use the “I” voice when really, does your listener care how smart you are about tax law?  No. They care about whether you can save them from the seventh level of tax software hell.
  • Make your Call to Action burst like a fireworks finale. If your pitch is successful, your listener will either want to hear more or they will have a positive, physical reaction.  They will be thinking, “I need that.” Or, “I need to hire this person.”  Without a CTA, you risk leaving your listener with that underwhelmed, slightly disappointed feeling that you get in a five-star restaurant when it’s time for dessert and everyone at your table says, “No thanks, I’m full.”

And two small critiques – sorry Ebonee.  First, for women: don’t touch your hair. Second, for men and women:  don’t let your hands touch any other part of your body. Not your rib cage, your thighs, or even your tie.  It can appear to the audience as if you are afraid and protecting yourself. That’s the last thing you want to convey when you are asking for money. Keep space between your hands and your body.  What should you do with your hands?  See our post on that exact subject!  Otherwise, nice work Ebonee.

Now… who can do better?

– Barbara