How to … sell yourself in 60 seconds

by 20 Mar 2007

Also known as the ‘elevator pitch’, it’s the ability to describe your personality, achievements, skills and work experience in just a minute. The tone should be commercial, the sentences short and it should leave the listener wanting to know more. In an era when time is often at a premium, the 60-second introduction could be seen as a modern interpretation of a CV.

Why is it important?

Many of us shy away from self-promotion and stop at telling people what we do, rather than how well we do it. Overcoming this reticence, however, will ensure that you always make a positive and powerful first impression, whether it is at a business event or a speed-networking opportunity. You never know when you’re likely to meet that person who could open the door to a new job, career move or major assignment, so it’s important to have your finely tuned 60-second pitch at the ready. Even if the opportunity doesn’t come your way immediately, if you’ve convincingly conveyed what you can offer in terms of future performance, they will remember you.

Where do I start?

Think about what you want to accomplish and what you want them to think or do as a consequence. The pitch is designed to give a decision maker or potential new manager a preview of your talents and abilities. Aim to be both impressive and distinctive so that you stand out from the crowd. Your ultimate goal is to spark a dialogue with this person.

“In a world of mediocrity, everything looks more or less the same, so why should they remember you?” says Robert Craven, a business mentor and coach. “What makes you different? If there were a choice between being different or better, then I would choose different every time. People remember different.”

Drafting the introduction

Consider your central message, which must amount to more than a brief resume of your key skills and attributes. You need to convey that you are a highly capable individual and emphasise where you’ve added value to your organisation, and how you’ve solved problems and helped others. While the theme of your message should remain a constant, make sure the way in which you broadcast it always has relevance for the listener –this may mean using different examples. When you talk about your skills, describe how you use them, rather than what they are. Avoid lengthy detail.

What traits do I need?

First, overcome any reluctance to talk about yourself. Learn how to grab their attention and build rapport quickly – use eye contact and body language (mirror their posture) to help you. Be self-assured, but don’t talk at your listener, and avoid rushing to get more words in – less is more in this case. Pause when you need to, use open questions and actively listen to their responses.

Rehearse your pitch

Once your introduction is prepared, practise delivering it until it sounds natural and not like you’re reading from a script. Solicit feedback from friends and trusted colleagues and refine it accordingly. If you’re feeling particularly brave prior to the main event, put it to the test with someone who is unaware of what you do. If they come back with a question, you’ll know you’ve perfected your pitch.

Second opinion on how to sell yourself in 60 seconds

Robert Craven, business mentor, coach, author and managing director of The Directors' Centre

What would you recommend as a good way to build confidence for your pitch?

Practice. Practice at home and then, when you are ready, practice at all networking events. Set yourself a target of, say, five people you are going to talk to at an event. Do not hide in the corner, but get into the middle of the room and find someone to talk to - you will not die.

You could also try the one-metre rule. If anyone (and I mean anyone, anywhere) comes within one metre of you (at the bus stop, in a cafe, at a business breakfast), then smile and introduce yourself - it is amazing who will respond.

Do you need to be word perfect with your pitch?

If you're word perfect, it's a giveaway that you have been trained or that you are simply repeating something that you learned by rote. Instead, try to adjust to what you know about the person in front of you. If you have the opportunity to slow down, then the listener might ask questions (a clue that they are interested). Then you can give examples and open up the dialogue.

What should you avoid doing?

Don't bother with cheap tricks or gimmicks - they may be remembered but they may not help you to demonstrate your professionalism.

Don't bother with garlic, chewing gum or halitosis. Sort out your oral - and all personal - hygiene, please. Don't ask for the business - that will come later. Don't outstay your welcome. If the conversation starts to dry up, politely find a reason to move on.

Is there a golden rule of pitching?

Make no attempt to sell - all you are looking for is to make contact and build rapport.

You should remember from courting days that the purpose of the first date is simply to get the second date. Do not expect or ask for any more, or you will be disappointed. The same applies here.

By Scott Beagrie. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine.