Developing the Perfect Pitch for the Audience
A pitch is moving target. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it is. If your pitch is formulaic and delivered in the same way to any person that you meet, it will be experienced in inauthentic, robotic, and insincere. Even at its best, you are not going to get any results from it. You really need to consider the audience. Sometimes, you will know why that person wants to hear you pitch. For example, the person is an interviewer or a recruiter at a fair. Sometimes, you will not know. If you are at a networking event, you just met this person, or the person is a family member or friend of the family.
The first and most essential part of the pitch experience is to connect to the person that you are speaking with. Don’t speak AT them with a prepared speech! Speak to and with them as in a normal social interaction. Connection is the driving force to action on your behalf whether it is hiring you and connecting you with another colleague. The person needs to find you authentic, trustworthy and competent in the area you are interested in. Mirror, but don’t mimic the person’s nonverbal behavior. If you notice that they are not making strong eye contact, be judicious with your own eye contact. If he/she speaks slowly, modify the pace of your speech. Mirroring nonverbals makes people feel comfortable, but practice it because without proper practice it can appear like a 2-year-old mimicking adult behavior which is not comforting at all.
Now, let’s consider the context for the next variables to the perfect pitch.
The Known Audience (Interviewer, Recruiter) – This is the audience where the agenda is clear. Typically, the question will be “tell me about yourself.”
- Summarize your experience. In a brief 2-3 sentences, capture your resume. Practice this part.
- Demonstrate fit. Beyond competence in a skill area often people want to work with individuals who are similar to them in values, orientation to the work, behavior. It’s very important that through you research of the organization–you get a clear sense of the organization and your department of interest’s culture. This data will helpful to put forward key aspects of yourself that will draw them in.
- Illustrate how you add value. It’s not just about what you have done, but how that’s more valuable from what everyone else can give. Why will you be more bang for the buck?
The Unknown Audience (Networking contact, family, stranger) – You are not sure how this person may be helpful. Typically, the person will ask you “so what do you do?” or “what are you plans?” Typically with the unknown audience, you don’t want to go straight into a pitch. You want them to prompt you.
- Capture your career goals clearly and succinctly. What do you want to do and where do you see yourself?
- What you’ve done in the past. Talk about the experiences where you have built skills that will set in the direction that you are considering.
- Ask them about their career path and how they came to it. It creates connection and you can begin to see similarities.
DO NOTS with Knowns:
- Don’t ask about their own career path or any personal information.
- Don’t share inappropriate personal information about yourself.
- Don’t drone on and on and on. Keep it brief and to the point.
DO NOTS with Unknowns:
- Don’t ask about positions from Unknowns.
- Don’t just talk about yourself.
- Don’t act like an opportunist (i.e., that you are only talking to them for what you can get)
The key to pitching yourself is understanding your audience and tailoring your communications to that audience. The standard pitch is not always helpful and can make you seem mechanical and green. Learn how to engage with others about their occupation and interests and you will see that others will want to connect with you on the same topics.