4 Questions to Answer In Any Self-Pitch or Introduction
How I craft powerful introductions and a system to help you do so too!
The other day, a friend of mine reached out and asked if I could help his little brother with an upcoming interview. The interviewee had asked him to prepare a 60 second statement or elevator pitch to introduce himself and explain why they should consider hiring him. I was a bit surprised but my friend had apparently seen some of my elevator pitches before and thought highly of them. Of course, I was more than happy to help and I got the chance to meet an amazing person.
In the process, I realized that there’s a specific model that I follow whenever I’m coming up with a 60-second pitch. I hope that sharing the process might help others who are currently going through a similar process.
What’s an Elevator Pitch?
The name kind of gives it away and it’s pretty famous in the entrepreneurial world. The idea is to imagine you enter an elevator and you find yourself standing next to a big investor or potential employer. From your floor to the ground floor, you have about 30-60 seconds, what can you say in those seconds to capture their attention? Can you convince them in that short time span that you’re so interesting that, when they get out of the elevator, they should turn around and ask for more? (I can hear my mom in my head “don’t talk to strangers", haha!)
A friend of mine has an amazing story about meeting a music executive in an elevator. He quickly said his elevator pitch and it went so well that the exec asked if he’d be willing to walk him to his next meeting. They talked for 20 minutes and that conversation led to the exec becoming one of his most influential mentors!
Whether it be an elevator, a coffee shop, networking night, or a classroom, it’s important to practice being able to advertise yourself.
Step 1: The Purpose | Hands down the most important starting point is understanding your audience and the purpose of speaking to them. What you might say to a professor you’re meeting about supporting a project vs. an investor about investing in your idea are going to be different.
So, start by asking these questions:
- Who is this person?
- Will they want a story? Numbers? Both?
- Do I want something from them? Money, partnership, mentorship?
Answering these questions will allow you to craft a very specific and effective message. Your manager who has 30 projects to manage probably doesn’t want you to come to them with a long story about how something went wrong. They probably want a short concise summary, is probably more concerned with the numbers, and wants you to come with a solution in mind.
Step 2: The Message | Okay, so now you know what kind of message to deliver but what will the message actually be? While this can be a very broad and vast topic, I do have a generic template that helps me get started anytime I might be stuck. I’ll call it The Four Questions of The Message (I know, pretty creative, right? haha)
Most basic pitches or messages should be able to answer the following four questions:
- Who are you? Introduce yourself
- Why should I listen to you? Establish your credibility
- Why should I care? Express the problem in a way that makes it clear why they are involved
- What do you want? Present a want or question that keeps the conversation flowing
Let’s run through a scenario of a college student reaching out to an alumnus for a potential job:
(1) Hello Mrs. Smith, my name is Jimmy Hernandez and I am a first year student at XXX College. (2) I am currently majoring in engineering with a minor in Art History and I am interested in potentially pursuing a career in Mechanical Engineering. (3) I recently came across your Linkedin profile and noticed that you are an alumnus from XXX college and that you are currently employed at YYY engineering firm. I was hoping to eventually apply to the summer internship program at YYY and I was hoping that alumni such as yourself may be able to provide some guidance on how I can set myself up for success. (4) Would it be possible for us to connect for a 20 minute phone call some point this week?
Who Are You?
(1) Hello Mrs. Smith, my name is Jimmy Hernandez and I am a first year student at XXX College.
Easy and simple introduction, pretty standard stuff to have a conversation. Just make sure to point out things that the audience will connect with.
Why Should I Listen To You?
(2) I am currently majoring in engineering with a minor in Art History and I am interested in potentially pursuing a career in Mechanical Engineering.
This is a chance to establish your credibility or show the audience why you are a viable conversation to be had. By saying he’s an engineering major and interesting Mechanical Engineering, he’s essentially showing Mrs. Smith that he’s serious and a worthwhile conversation.
Why Should I Care?
(3) I recently came across your Linkedin profile and noticed that you are an alumnus from XXX college and that you are currently employed at YYY engineering firm. I was hoping to eventually apply to the summer internship program at YYY and I was hoping that alumni such as yourself may be able to provide some guidance on how I can set myself up for success.
The point is the present your problem or the point of the conversation in clear terms that show the audience exactly why you chose them for this specific conversation
What Do You Want?
(4) Would it be possible for us to connect for a 20 minute phone call some point this week?
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen some people make is that they’ll set everything else up perfectly and then mess up the ending. Some people shoot too far (i.e. “So can you give me an internship?”) and some just won’t include any ask. If you don’t include an ask or follow up request, you’re simply saying that conversation is over. I usually aim to end with a question. Doesn’t have to be a big ask, some time it can be as simple as, “What do you think about this plan?” or “Got any advice?”.
Step 3: Breathe | Remember to breathe and allow yourself to make mistakes. The only way to learn is to make mistakes and, in fact, some studies have found that when you make mistakes, it makes it easier for people to connect with you. So, don’t stress and freak out in case you misspell something or say the wrong thing. Just be an adult, own up to the mistake, and keep it moving forward. Remember: People often remember how you made them feel more than they remember the exact words you used.
There you go, there is the basic thought process that has helped me craft effective messages that have led to hundreds of meaningful Linkedin connections, coffee chats, interviews, etc. It’s not perfect but it is a great starting point for anything hoping to start crafting their message.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas to add on!