How do you feel when you think you have to pitch?

It’s not rare that I hear people who have to pitch for a job or for their start-up saying that they feel more comfortable to speak as a subject matter expert at a big conference, rather than talk about themselves (or their new business) and how good they are. They are concerned to come off as bragging. Yes, we tend to be modest, and pitching ourselves is hard! Figuring out how to do it in an authentic and convincing way is even harder.

It’s not only a matter of defining our message, what we want to say in 30 seconds or one minute. It’s also about how we deliver it.

Many of us prepare our pitch by writing it. But we can’t simply recite our text, the one we have spent hours to put down on paper. We need an intermediary step to adjust it to a verbal mode, and sound like a real person speaking.

Here are 4 tips you can try for adjusting your pitch, and to make it sound like a normal, casual conversation.

Keep it simple

Don’t use words you wouldn’t use at other times. Use simple language, as if you were talking to your mom – or even your grandma – and you want her to understand what you do as a job.

Imagine, you are at a social event. You accidentally spill some white wine on the person standing next to you. Would you say “Apologies for the inconvenience I may have caused you” or rather “I’m so sorry! How clumsy of me, and how embarrassing!”? . . . You may use the first wording in a written apology note, but how are you likely to talk like that?!

The same for your pitch. Would you say:

  • “I own and manage a firm specialized in solutions for those needing additional administrative office services” or “I’m an accountant. I have my own practice, and I prepare tax declaration and do book keeping for small shops”?
  • “I work with below legal age people” or “I work with children and teen-agers”?

Turn it into a question

Saying what you do (or what your solution is, if you are pitching for your new business) may sound obvious or normal. A way to engage your interlocutor is to phrase who you are and what you do in a question.

For example, you may say “you know when it’s closing time, and everyone in the company sends in her numbers and reports? As an accountant, I’m the one who help compiling, reconciling, and making sense of it all”.

Practice it and solicit feedback

Rehearse your pitch in front of a mirror, or record yourself with your tablet, so you can see and hear how you sound. You may feel awkward at the beginning, but the more you practice, the smoother and authentic your talking will be.

When you feel your pitch sounds natural, ask some friends or colleagues if you can try with them. Then, check with them what they thought about it, and what they understood your key points were. If their answer is not what you were expecting, then rework your pitch . . . and keep on practicing.

Unfold over time

In your pitch you have to be brief. But you can prepare – and practice! – one or two additional sentences to reinforce your message. These are to support and substantiate it. These are key successes and achievements that you are proud of, and that show your value. You can then casually drop one of them in the conversation when the occasion comes. Yes, because it would be a pity not to mention them. But you have to do it at the right time, not in your initial pitch.

Going back to the accountant example, you may say “I am so fortunate that for last year closing – after our merge with company XXX – I have been coordinating the accounting teams of the 2 entities. Actually it was an amazing team effort, and I’m privileged to have been working with so many great professionals”.

What else? Well, best of luck for pitching yourself or your business!. . . And – very important – learn to enjoy doing it!