5 Steps to the Perfect Elevator Pitch or Brand Story
Every job seeker and entrepreneur has learned just how important it is to make a great first impression, and sell yourself or your business to a new company, customer or new investor. When you have just minutes to get their attention and share essential information about yourself and your professional brand–the information that’s going to get your foot in the door, get your product into the right hands, or otherwise get money in your pocket–what do you say? What’s essential, and what’s not? I’m going to show you how you really self yourself in just 5 steps. When it’s time to create or fine-tune your elevator pitch or brand story use this 5-step approach I call my ITSMETM Approach.
The simple technique to selling yourself is to remember: I.T.S.M.E. “It’s Me!”
The essential sales pitch–the Elevator Pitch–earned its name from the idea that it should be delivered in the short time it takes to share an elevator with someone who’s interested in your skill set or business–typically 30- to 60 seconds. The term has survived in the business and finance spaces for decades as the fabled elevator ride a hungry applicant or business owner lucks upon with the hiring manager, executive or venture capitalist on the way up to their corporate office. In essence, you never know who you’re on the elevator with so you better represent yourself well! Back then, your pitch might have been about skills, features and quantifiable information. Today, that elevator pitch is more about forming the connection that fosters a relationship built on trust and relatability. It’s about sharing, “This is who I am, and this is what I’ve built my professionalism on.” I’ve coined this sales pitch the “ITSME pitch”. It’s. Me. I’m not just selling my service or skill set here, I’m selling myself and the experiences that formed the professional I am today.
And if the elevator pitch establishes the connection, then it’s the brand story that nurtures the budding relationship. Just as with any other relationship, vulnerability and transparency are essential and you might start by revealing precisely the information you’d rather avoid. To form a relationship we have to be relatable. For this story, you’ll need at least 2-3 minutes–as building relationships take a little more time, constructed on a little more turmoil. This additional time allows you to take your audience on an emotional journey that reveals the strength and reliability of your triumph, having been built in and overpassing your trials.
Want to see how easy it is to sell yourself in just 5 steps?
The “I” in ITSME is the simple Introduction. As fundamental as this is, many people forget to simply introduce themselves! Make it a habit to share your name and/or your business name immediately. “Forgive the interruption, Ms. Executive! I’m Marceia Cork–I attended your webinar last week and you shared your frustration…” Much like what you were taught in grade school, your statements should cover the basic who, what, when, where and why you’re meeting or how you were previously connected.
Do you have a Testimony? Trauma? Triumph? Your “T” might be any of these. Whatever it is, this is where you share your truth. Something from your past has helped shape your professional goals. Sharing that story is precisely what’s going to make you relatable. In social media marketing customers do business with people they like, know and trust. Sharing your truth gives people a glimpse into your life. Combined, that access and authenticity creates a bond as you also show them you trust them with your truth.
You’re the Solution. Now it’s time to offer up yourself and your services as the solution. Position this solution as both the solution to overcoming your own testimony and triumph, alongside how you can help them and those they may also serve.
Mastery and Expertise. Which brings us to the M and E of the ITSME approach. Close your pitch and brand story by proving you deserve their investment of time and money. You do this by briefly explaining what you’ve done to master your craft, and to perfect your product or services. Explain to them just what makes you a credible source or trusted provider for what you offer and how you’ve gained that experience and expertise.
This isn’t about rattling off the degrees you’ve earned–because not everyone has gone to college or earned degrees in the industries in which they’ve started their businesses and careers. What’s more important to note here are the keys to your current success–how you’re improving and mastering your skills, and how you, your services and skills stand out above any others. Of course it’s okay to mention your degrees if it’s relevant, or if it helps establish the connection with the listener–say, if they went to the same school. Otherwise, skip it and focus on your unique, soft skills and tactics that made you stand out among the others.
I can say all of that in 1-3 minutes? Yes. As a media trainer, interview and public speaking coach I teach clients how to structure a basic speech or prepared statement based on the time allotted for the speaking opportunity. As you perfect this technique start by simply breaking it down into (somewhat) equal parts.
The ITSME approach has 5 parts–for an elevator pitch that’s about 85 words, with 10-12 seconds per topical area. Spend about 12 seconds telling people your name and referencing the how’s and when’s of your initial meeting or connection, then spend about 10-12 seconds on every other area: 12 seconds sharing the testimony or trauma or that helped shaped your business decision, followed by about 12 seconds for each of the remaining areas. In a nutshell that’s about three short supporting statements per area.
For your brand story that’s more like an average of 200 words, and 45 seconds per topical area, which could look like 30-45 seconds of your name and background on the initial meeting or connection, then 45 seconds to a minute on the other areas: the testimony or trauma or that helped shaped who you are as a professional, followed by about 45-60 seconds of longer-form, solution-driven statements that note mastery of your craft, and highlight your expertise.
This structure means being methodical; having a formula you can repeat without ever overlooking an essential. Even Apple has their own five-step approach to the great service they provide, and boasts being service- and people-focused over highlighting technical product features. And now you do too. That’s how to sell yourself in just 5 steps. That’s the “It’s Me!” way.
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Three techniques to improve your confidence in just 60 seconds.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret… For some people, speaking and selling yourself with confidence isn’t innate, it’s a PRACTICE! That’s right, you have to practice confidence. You have to learn what confidence looks like, how it sounds, and how it feels.
I have three exercises that have become crowd favorites in my coaching sessions and workshops. These three exercises will accelerate your confidence in your speaking skills! In other words–we’re going from 0 to 60 confidence, real quick! (*Queue some Drake theme music!)
The ABC Exercise — #ABCchallenge
I use the alphabet with clients and in my workshops because the alphabet levels the playing field; everybody knows it. It’s something you can recite without having to think–and that’s precisely what I want. What people commonly fear when speaking publicly is that they’ll forget what they want to say, or won’t have anything to say. Doing the ABC exercise shows people just how words can flow when you’re prepared and when you’re so comfortable with the content that you don’t have to search for words.
The ABCchallenge is really simple. You’re going to:
SPEAK the alphabet. Make it sound conversational, not recite it as a song;
Tell people you’ll be reciting the alphabet. Recite it;
Then provide us with a closing.
This is a fun exercise for all ages, and a good one to introduce to the young people in your life. It’s never too early to get them comfortable with public speaking. Do it daily and you’ll see yourself transform in no time! Click on the image above to watch my YouTube demonstration of the ABC Challenge.
Challenge a friend and share your ABC Challenge with me on social @itsmarceiacork. Use #abcchallenge!
The goal and outcome of Box Talk is to teach you how to speak on nearly any subject for one full minute. One minute is usually how much time you might spend answering a question. When you’re being interviewed or doing Q+A you have to learn how to think on your feet and answer questions quickly. Box Talk will teach you to find a way to answer any question with just three points. The key is to prepare an answer that’s personal, honest, and gets as close to answering the question as you can. For example, if you’ve been asked to talk about Plastic Surgery, but you have no first hand experience with plastic surgery you might say, “I’m going to talk to you about three celebrities who’s cosmetic procedures always have us talking: Cardi B, Nikki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian. To your audience, it feels like you’ve still stayed on subject and answered the question. Let’s take a quick look at my short BoxTalk demo, or watch the full YouTube video below!
Practice daily or multiple times a day! Why not–it only takes a minute!
Underscored is an exercise I use to show people how to perfect the manuscript style of speaking. With the manuscript technique, you are actually reading from a prepared script. This is how most keynote speeches are delivered, along with things like eulogies, press conferences and other opportunities. And if you’re planning to do voiceover work you’ll definitely read from a lot of scripts. The goal of this exercise is to learn to make your scripted reading sound more conversational and melodic, and less robotic. We tend to sound like robots when we read. But what you want is vocal variety. That means, you want to deliver a scripted speech in a way that sounds like you would if you were talking off the cuff and having an everyday conversation. We change our pitch, we change our volume, we change our pace. We often have a natural rhythm or cadence when we talk.
I call this exercise Underscored! because to underscore typically means to underline for emphasis. With this exercise, underlining and highlighting key words within your script will help determine what you want to emphasize and what you don’t, and help you find your rhythm and flow. Read below for an at-a-glance view of what to do, then watch this video to see the Underscored technique in action:
First, imagine yourself telling a recent story. Make note of how you sound when you’re excited, sharing private info, or while laughing, etc.
Read through your script. What’s the mood? I want you to underline, highlight and make notes of what you need to emphasize, and of what you’ll understate or run together with less emphasis.
Try to mimic your natural speaking voice.
Resist the urge to overemphasize adjectives, pronouns and verbs. Do this only if the content really calls for it.
Read through repeatedly, and settle into a natural cadence. When you notice a pattern while practicing you’ll know this is your signature flow! Chances are, this is how you sound when you tell stories or share information with friends! Just like we recognize the flow and delivery style of our favorite rappers, actors and voiceover talents, your audiences may have already started to pick up on your signature sound. So use this technique to really nurture what’s becoming your signature sound, and increase your voice recognition.
I hope you enjoy these exercises! Be sure to record yourself and share the videos with me on social using the hashtags #ABCchallenge #BoxTalk #0to60Confidence and #mebethebrand. I can’t wait to see you rebuilding, rebranding, and representing yourself with confidence!
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The idea of speaking in front of an audience is already intimidating enough. Public speaking is one of the top phobias; many people fear it more than death! Instead of focusing on the speaking itself, try improving your public speaking opportunities with these 10 tips that don’t require any speaking whatsoever!
10. Learn your audience. Your speech is nothing without an audience! Research your audience to learn the best venues and platforms for your speaking engagements. Seek demographic data whenever you can. Knowing your audience will help you develop the right messaging. Which posts and what content generated the most reactions from your followers? If you’re conducting interviews on podcasts or going live on social media, research the best days and times to interact with them. When are your followers most active on social media? Get a firm understanding of your audience and the topics they want to hear, and plan accordingly.
9. Look the part. Represent your brand and dress like a member of your audience and client base. You should reflect both your product/service and your client base. Your image should be consistent with those you serve. Likewise, your attire should align with the price points of your featured product/service and topic. Otherwise, you won’t be trusted. You’ll look like someone who doesn’t even march to the beat of the drum you’re selling.
8. Dress comfortably. Now make sure you’re comfortable! Your goal with every speaking opportunity is to be present and engage with your community. If you’re uncomfortable you may fidget or be distracted, and it will show. Be mindful of the environment–will you be too cold? Sweat too much or overheat? Will the hat you’re wearing keep falling off? Will your jewelry bang against the microphone? Think ahead and dress for comfort so you aren’t distracted–and so you don’t become a distraction to your audience.
7. Remember to “PBS”. Pause. Breath. Slow down. The first thing we do when we’re nervous is start to speak too quickly, and we run out of breath! It’s not a good feeling to be winded when speaking, so correct this early. Practice first–in front of a mirror, or record yourself. Pay attention to the pace and rhythm of your speaking voice. If you find that you rush when nervous, slow yourself down by taking longer pauses between words, and taking deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth. It’s very similar to trying to catch your breath while running or jogging. Here’s a tip: inhale and say “P-B-S” to yourself. It will remind you to pause, breath, slow down and pace your breath.
6. Invite a friend! The more the merrier, right? Yes, everything’s better with a friend! The banter between two hosts or speakers is very effective in engaging the senses and holding an audience’s attention. But be strategic about who you invite to join you. Guests and co-hosts should align with either your brand or your community; they should have a product, service or story that resonates with your audience. If they don’t, the discussion may not be of value to your audience, AND it may deter them from ever joining you again.
5. Structure your speech. Develop an agenda/program. Speaking opportunities are a great time to be authentic and put yourself out there–but be your BEST self. This is for your audience, so make every minute of their time and participation count. Don’t wing the conversation. Give them a preview of what you’ll cover in and what they will get out of your speech–it makes it easier for them to follow along and not lose focus. Then, make sure you discuss every point you promised! Leave them feeling fulfilled (not like they wasted their time) and wanting to hear you speak again!
4. Use notecards Again, don’t wing it! If you’ve taken time to carefully organize your speech and curate the discussion, you certainly don’t want to miss any of the key points! Work from a bulleted list of main points and/or agenda items. This helps you stay on topic and make the most of the time allotted. It’s also a great way to make note of follow-up questions and comments. Also, using notecards rather than flimsy paper make you look more polished and aren’t as noisy when handled!
3. Give your speech “CPR” – Credibility. Personality. Relatability. Someone told me recently, “I’m not buying the product if the owner is a mystery or doesn’t seem confident!” The first step in selling your product or service is to effectively sell yourself. People do business with those they trust, like and know. If you want to see the way I break down my CPR acronym and position it against what’s known in social media marketing as the “Know/Like/Trust” factor, you can check that out here.
Way too often these days I see people deliver in a way that mirrors a Ted Talk, as if that has become the standard for giving talks. But what makes people like you, and feel like they know you, is when you sprinkle a little of what they’ve come to learn about your personality! So as you develop your talking points, be sure to season it with what people know about your personality, and what makes you credible and relatable.
2. Memorize, and visualize yourself getting through your speech successfully. Once your agenda items are determined, memorize things like your introduction, and any jokes, facts/statistics, or other things that add flavor to the conversation. Memorizing and knowing them versus reading them also add to your credibility. They make the content feel more like second-nature to you and take away the anxiety out of forgetting something important!
Call it a “dress rehearsal” in your head! Visualize running through and sequencing your speech until you know exactly where you can inject a quote, story, testimonial, song, etc. without losing your place. Visualize your success!
1. Practice looking confident in your “Proud Stance” The Proud Stance is a term and exercise I use as I coach clients on how to fall into a comfortable but professional position that they can hold for at least one minute. I have a quick and helpful demo of how to practice your Proud Stance here. A minute is about how long it takes to introduce yourself at the top of your speaking opportunity and establish credibility. It’s also about the amount of time it takes to respond to a poignant question. So practice falling into a comfortable position that looks professional, but matches your personality. Try to hold that position without rocking, pacing, fidgeting or adjusting your clothes. A person who can hold a position with confidence commands an audience’s attention!
And there you have it–10 ways to improve your public speaking, and fine tune your speaking opportunities before you even begin to deliver them!
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You’re on the brink of involuntary change, and the anxiety that comes with the change. Navigate it with a bridge to change.
We’re all in transition. For the past 10 years and up until the COVID pandemic in 2020 I’d been providing strategic communication and change solutions mostly to large government agencies, colleges and universities. I helped employees navigate technological changes and changes to business processes. Their great concerns were things like, “How will I do my job after this change?” But with COVID those concerns became, “Will I still have a job with this change?” “If my small business doesn’t survive how do I start over? and “How do I make ends meet?”
The support I want to offer certainly should not replace the care and guidance prescribed and offered by your doctors and license professionals, but I am a certified change practitioner who will be both your coach and cheerleader, offering real change solutions and encouragement along your path to professional fulfillment and solid financial footing.
The baby boomer who fears he or she is aging out of the workforce is asking, “Will I be able to get a job?” as is the returning citizen recently released from prison, the person now battling depression or trauma of the hardships brought on by the pandemic, and the recent graduate who’s now up against stiff competition to stand out and be recognized. All the while, the parent of a young school-aged child is finding her or himself making the tough decision of declining a job offer because their child will be left home alone. If you have a similar hardship I am now compelled to support you in this transition.
Motivational speaker, Dr. Willie Jolley says, you should “turn your setback into a comeback.”
Owning your hardship and leaning into the change can be hard, but it will be your first step in walking confidently and courageous into change. Acknowledging your truth gives voice to the reality, trauma or even guilt that you would have ordinarily suppressed or omitted in the traditional hiring process. But within the tribe that will become your community and customer base it makes you relatable and shines light on authenticity–not flaws. People will flock to you because you are credible, you are relatable, and your personality shines through as you engage with your tribe.
Whether it’s a career change, financial challenges, or a change needed to improve your life or lifestyle–think of the change process as building a bridge–a strong and resilient bridge between the life you know and the life that will be. Build your bridge–your bridge to confidence, your bridge to change. Every bridge must have an anchor, the structure, and sustainability. Build your confidence bridge on a foundation of financial security.
Just as it is seen in the social sciences as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and in the spiritual realm as the Root Chakra: one does not fully grow and progress until his or her root is stable. Your confidence in the changes to come must be anchored in security and stability. Identify what it is that will stabilize you and anchor yourself. How much (or how little) do you need to truly feel secure? Whether it’s a career change, financial challenges, or a change needed to improve your life or lifestyle, you are more likely to embrace the change when you see that there is security and stability on the other side. Once there is an anchor, there can be a structure.
The structure is the bridge itself–the bridge as the solution to your challenges. See yourself in the solution, and structure your life and lifestyle around the the state of your life today. Let go of what was so that you can rebuild on what is. What some people see as having to downsize their life and lifestyle, I see as “right-sizing”.
Then there is the third and final component of your change bridge: the chains that sustain and firmly hold your change bridge in place, and guide your path from point A to point B. Let your bridge lead you; stay the course, maintaining your life and lifestyle around this change. If you’ve “right-sized” this might mean adjusting to a new budget and lifestyle. If change has taken you into a new environment this might mean creating an entirely new sense of community and a system that supports this new life. If you’re considering entrepreneurship that means creating viable products or services that generate enough of an income to sustain you.
So congratulations. (Yes, congratulations are in order.) You are about to take on a tremendous challenge and you’ve already decided you’re going to win. Anyone who has been the victorious underdog can tell you, it feels good to be the underdog once you realize you’re about to prove everyone wrong and win. You’re scared, sure, because you’ve sized up your opponent! Change is your opponent, and sometimes it’s big. But embrace being the underdog that’s about to win!
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I love money. I looove watching money grow. It gives me goosebumps.
I’m a natural-born saver, and watching money down to the penny throughout my life added immeasurable value to my professional skill set. And spending nearly two decades of my career in project management and account management estimating and managing large budgets transferred advantageously back to my personal life. Growing up, my ability to delay gratification was nearly as euphoric as the reward itself! That mindset has carried over into the life I live–firmly walking the line that lies between my means and beyond them! But otherwise my financial goals, I presume, were much like yours… I was in pursuit of happiness and financial independence (from my student loans!)
A few years ago while working on my vision board a magazine cut-out of the word “Happy” found its way to the center of the board. I continued to modge-podge my 2019, finding that in the end the visuals that represented my intentions and goals for the year all had money at the stem (surprise, surprise)–iterating things like, “Yes, you can travel on a dime!” and “Buy less, make more!” among others. The goals that encircled my “Happy” boiled down to purchasing a home I could retire in without being “house poor”, living comfortably through retirement, college savings, and a legacy of wealth for my children. That board became a roadmap to happiness. So, I started the financial journey to “Happy”. It was going to be calculated (no pun intended) and deliberate. Goosebumps.
Here’s how I saved $65K effortlessly:
I identified what it costed me to live. I opened my mobile banking apps and looked at every purchase and payment I’d made with my debit and credit cards that month. And I do mean every transaction–for utilities, credit card payments, student loan payments, dinners out, shopping, gifts to loved ones, etc.–and I tallied that amount against what I earned each month.
I gave myself a “pay cut”. Now that I knew what it cost me to live, I played a mind game with myself. I told myself, if that’s all I really need to live, why don’t I pretend that’s all I need to earn! I set up direct deposits into other accounts for the remaining net pay–the difference between my pay and my expenses–so that it never touched my hands and I never saw it! I knew it wad there if I truly needed it (or wanted it!) But I committed to seeing how much I could save if I ignored it and just let it stack. I did that consistently. Two years later those untouched earnings alone totaled $14,200!
I negotiated a pay raise. Alongside that “pay cut” I also increased my earnings. Listen, I practice what I preach. As I change consultant and coach I talk about confidence quite a bit. One of the things I tell people is to build confidence by quieting the voice in their head and instead listen to the people around them who have good things to say. During this period of aggressive saving I was also experiencing a stroke of good luck on a contract. I was performing well and was given a greater, more visible responsibility which turned out to be worth a higher hourly rate. That year I took home an additional $21K in consulting fees to stack alongside that $14,200. If you’re performing well at work, trust your skills and talents enough to negotiate a pay raise.
I got creative. Impressed with what I’d saved, I was inspired to rent out my basement to generate about $1300 month. I had my tenant transfer that $1300 directly into my savings for a total of $15,600 each year and $31,200 in two years!
These tactics didn’t put a strain on me at all. The money was all out of sight and out of mind. I even allowed myself to play with a little of the excess. I recommend this when the money is truly excess–I find it takes the sting out of aggressive saving when you can still reward yourself without compromising what you’ve saved. After I rewarded myself, I had saved $65K.
Spend less. Earn more. Combined, these four words can amass a fortune. I saved $65K for no reason other than to see what I could accomplish without effort but it became a lump investment into my financial independence, and the process was the linchpin to my investment strategy. Today I look back at that vision board… Retirement target: Met. The new home I could retire in comfortably: Check. Custodial accounts for my kids: Check. And it didn’t hurt one bit–in fact, it felt pretty damn good.
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