When you’re trying to get attention (or money) for your business, timing is everything. You’ve got two minutes to make a great impression, sell both your ideas and yourself as a person, and convince potential investors and partners that you know what you’re doing. And if we’ve learned anything from Alex Blumberg’s disastrous first attempt, it’s that this is not a skill that’s native to most of us. But is it a skill that can be learned?
Absolutely — but to get it right, you have to focus on both your verbal and non-verbal cues.
Chic CEO CMO Jody Coughlin, who works directly with female entrepreneurs, advises her clients to be ok with sounding “a bit sales-y.” In an article for Forbes, she explained that “as long as the concept is clearly communicated,” it’s not a bad thing if you sound more like an advertiser than you usually would in conversation. After all, you basically are advertising yourself, and you’re probably doing it to a person who hears things like this all the time.
However, she says, try not to play too much inside ball. Avoid super-niche language, and instead, opt for clear, concise phrasing.
“Try telling your pitch to someone who is a complete stranger, have never heard of your company and have no clue what you do – if they get it, you’ve done it.”
Another key to selling yourself: Know what you’re going to say, and be prepared to do it with our without notes.
“Practice, practice, practice on new people every day. You can’t develop an effective pitch by yourself,” said CEO David Bloom in an interview with Mashable, “Everyone in my family has heard my pitch 100 times, and when their eyes glaze over I know that I’m doing something wrong.”
Know it so well, you could do it blindfolded, while hanging upside-down over a tank of sharks. This was one of Alex’s biggest issues; during his first pitch, he was walking and talking at the same time, which meant he didn’t have his PowerPoint deck to prop him up. He also hadn’t practiced his exact phrasing. When you’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to have it down solid.
Even with all the preparation in the world, though, if your personality doesn’t come off as one that jives with the person you’re talking to, your pitch is going to fall flat. But being shy or an introvert doesn’t mean you’re never going to get the funding you need — it just means you need to practice another element: Your charisma and confidence, which begin with your body language. In fact, in an elevator pitch situation, non-verbal communication matters just as much as the actual words you say.
Body language is especially key is you’re nervous to pitch which, in all honestly, you probably are. Pitching is nervous-making. But if you practice what Science of People founder Vanessa Van Edwards calls “power body language,” you can not only change the way you come off to the person you’re pitching to, but also change the way you feel.
“Our body is a positive feedback loop. When we go into low-confidence body language, we actually begin to feel more low-confident. We produce the stress hormone that makes us feel worse. So we get worse and worse and worse,” she explains. “Whereas if you feel confident, and you stand confident, you produce the exact hormone you need to perform well.”
To practice power body language, the main key is to fight the urge to be as small and protected as possible, and instead, take up space.
“Claim territory,” says Vanessa, “Expand your body.” Rather than crossing your arms or shoving your hands in your pockets, allow your arms to hang loose and push your shoulders back. Use what Vanessa calls a “launch stance,” which takes up just enough room to be confident and powerful, but not so much room as to look out-of-place or downright bizarre.
Pitching your business or idea is difficult, but it’s a skill that, with some repetition and keen attention, anyone can master. Armed with a combination of strong, concise, and well-practiced verbal language, and powerful, hormone-improving non-verbal language, your elevator pitch will communicate exactly who you are and why your idea is a great one.