Freedom to Speak with Passion: 5 Tips on How to Express Your Opinion Without Losing the Message and the Audience
We live in a nation where we have the freedom to share our opinions. This freedom was so important to the Founding Fathers of the United States that it was established as the first amendment. As citizens of the United States we have the freedom to have values and opinions that are different from our leaders, as well as one another. We have the freedom to believe what we chose to believe and we have the freedom to express that belief, even if it is unpopular.
We live in a time where college degrees are common place. More people hold graduate degrees than ever before. You likely work at a company or in an industry where everyone is degreed. The individuals who stand out among the sea of talent are those who are prepared and able to articulate what they bring to the table. They are the ones who know exactly what to say to stand out. They are the ones who leave an impression on those they speak with because they are prepared.
Your elevator speech, or pitch, is the opportunity for you to share how amazing you are. In a not so subtle way it gives insight to why someone should build a relationship with you. It is the compelling (and concise) story you tell to sell you. It is your opportunity to express “Why you?”
Incredibly talented people get the pitch wrong. One way this is accomplished is robotically. They approach the pitch without showing personality. Like a business hostage, they give their name, rattle off the company they work for and the title they hold. Sadly unaware, they are come off as dull and not memorable at all.
Conversely, some people share their entire work history since high school, including that amazing summer gig as a lifeguard. Whether it is because they think every position matters or they are nervous and not paying attention remains unclear. Unfortunately, they say a lot without saying anything worth remembering.
Your pitch needs to be engaging and memorable. Keep it simple enough that an eight-year-old and eighty-year-old will understand. Refrain from using jargon and confusing statements. Remember, people do business with people they know and trust. If you complicate your message you will alienate yourself.
Keep your pitch short and to the point. The idea of an elevator pitch is to sell your product – in this case yourself – during the time it would take to ride an elevator: around 30-60 seconds. This is not a lot of time so the more concise your message, the more impact you will have. A successful pitch intrigues the listener and makes them want to know more.
One way to assure your pitch is memorable is to include the following: something professional, something personal and something unique.
Here is an example of a solid pitch.
Hi! My name is Latrice Johnson. I have been a Registered Nurse at Central Hospital for almost 10 years. I've welcomed babies into the world, and helped restore patients from near death situations. I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, so to live my dream has been amazing. Right now I am looking to move to a teaching hospital so I can help groom new nursing students. When I’m not at the hospital though I love camping and escaping to nature. Work hard, play hard!
In this elevator pitch, the speaker states what she does, gives context and adds compelling imagery to speak to her experiences. She could have very well added a major accomplishment if she wanted to, depending on the situation. She clearly states what she is looking for and why and closes with a personal hobby and sentiment that most people share. This pitch is clear, concise and memorable.
Here is an example of an elevator pitch for someone who recently finished serving his term in the military.
Nice to meet you. I am Thomas Noel. I have served in the United States Navy for the past 6 years as an Aviation Mechanic. I recently ended my contract and have been seeking the next big thing. I enjoyed the adventure the Navy offered but I also really enjoyed the challenges that were brought each day. I am not originally from this area but I am loving it. I’ve already found a place to swing my golf clubs, but I am really looking forward to a new career so I can afford my hobby. *insert laughter*
In this pitch, the speaker identifies who he is as a professional, what he needs and is looking for, as well as a unique interest he has. He has even shown that he has a sense of humor. The person listening to his pitch will likely appreciate his humor and will have an easier time connecting with him. They can quickly determine how they can be of assistance and decide their next step. This layout can also be used for someone who is between positions.
Finally, here is an example of an elevator pitch for a recent college grad.
Hi! My name is Madison Adams. I recently graduated from Texas Southern University with a Bachelors in Finance and Accounting. I've held many leadership roles on campus, including President of NABA. Last summer I also had the opportunity to intern for Shell, participating with the team responsible for vendor accounts. I am very interested in audit and am actively seeking opportunities. I have a lot to offer and am confident I will add value to my next employer.
It might seem challenging to sell yourself if you do not have much work experience, but all of the activities you participate in are valuable. Professionally tied organizations like NABA (National Association of Black Accountants) are very noteworthy, but even organizations that focus on service add value and show your leadership abilities. If you are not involved in organizations, you can share noteworthy classes or other meaningful activities you have participated in.
If you are at an event or a situation that affords you more time to share, the nature of your elevator pitch will vary slightly. This does not mean you go into your history but it does mean that you will need to have more material to talk about. To avoid rambling, have 2-3 highlights about yourself that you would be willing to share. Be sure whatever you share is relevant and memorable. Be smart with your small talk.
Getting your personal elevator pitch down pat will take practice. Stand in front of a mirror and practice. You can also use your cell phone and record yourself. Is your energy attractive? Is your stance inviting? Are you speaking at a reasonable pace? Is your message concise and easy to understand? Are you engaging?
Having a well prepared (without it appearing over-prepared) elevator pitch allows you to walk through the door of opportunity when it opens. Your pitch lets others know what you are about and encourages them to connect with you. Your pitch serves as your personal marketing campaign and you are the marketer. If you do not have your pitch, make one today and practice it daily; you don't want to be caught off guard when opportunity comes your way.
You have prepared. You know your material forwards and backwards. You are ready to present. There is one thing you might have neglected though: your audience.
While it is important for you to feel confident about your presentation, it is even more important for your audience to feel engaged and empowered by your presentation. An engaged audience leans in to a presentation. They ask questions. They take notes. They maintain eye contact with the presenter. They are present and paying attention.
Keeping the audience engaged is your job as a presenter. Your audience is relying on you to keep their attention and provide them with a take-away. Whether they have volunteered or are required to watch your presentation, you owe it to them to make it worth their while.
Prior to your presentation, you will want to consider who your audience is and what matters most to them. Are they coworkers you are presenting a new idea to? Are they sales leads who you are pitching a product to? Are they community leaders you are seeking to build a relationship with? Understanding who you are speaking with will help you create a presentation that connects with them in a way that is engaging and meaningful.
While the objective of your presentation might be to teach or provide an update, you are still empowering your audience. Oxford Dictionary defines the word empower as “to give (someone) the authority or power to do something.” Regardless of the category of your presentation, you are empowering your audience because you are equipping them with information they did not have prior to observing you present.
You wield a great deal of power (and responsibility) as a presenter. The people to whom you present trust what you are saying and are depending on you to share your expertise. It is up to you to be know who they are, know what they want and present in a way that is appealing.
The idea that companies needed to brand themselves came about in the mid-1950s. Company branding gave customers something to relate their experience to. Catchy phrases and memorable logos helped build loyalty around everything from cigarettes to soap to cars.
Today, more than ever, companies rely on branding to create a following and evoke visceral feelings around their company. When we think about Dove soap we might start to feel good about ourselves because a major part of their ad campaigns focus on positive self-image, with the tag line “Every Body is Beautiful.” When we think of Coca-Cola, we might hear the release of fizz even with no can around because Coca-Cola has done a good job of including that sound in much of their advertising with the tag line “Taste the Feeling.”
Branding is a powerful tool that companies use. You are no different. The feelings you evoke when people think about you is equally important to the quality of work you produce. Even if a candidate has the talent, employers are looking for are people who align with their company culture and mission. They want to know that who they hire will fit in.
Without even trying, you have a personal brand. People have a perceived notion about who you are, what you stand for and how you make them feel by how you show up. From how you dress to how you speak to the work you have produced, you have a defined personal brand.
There are three major components to your personal brand: your image, your message and your attitude.
People are very visual creatures. We make snap judgements based upon what we see. Before someone speaks we judge their mental abilities, their social status, their knowledge. Do we sometimes get it wrong? Absolutely. Is this something we should be aware of? Most definitely!
The image we project is one of the most important pieces to building our personal brand. To attract quality people into your network you must appear to be a quality prospect. From head to toe, people will glance and make decisions on whether or not someone is worth their time. If what you are wearing says, “I don’t care,” then people will believe you don’t care.
Be aware of the type of people you want to attract and dress accordingly. If your industry is very suit and tie, then be sure you are always polished. If your industry is business casual, then be sure you are professionally casual (but still be neat). If you are unsure of what image your industry accepts, look at leaders within your company. What are they wearing? How do they show up?
The branding of yourself as it relates to your message is a combination of your values and your expressions. How do you express what you stand for? To better understand this, you have to understand your values and default form of expression.
Values vary depending on our upbringing and our experiences throughout life. Religion, social status, family make-up, education level - each of these impact us in different ways. Someone who grew up in the small town of Paris, Texas is going to approach life differently than someone who grew up in the big city of Paris, France.
In this same thread is the delivery – how we express ourselves or deliver our message. Each of us has unique speech patterns. For most of us it is based on where we were born and how we were reared. The delivery of our message is composed mostly by body language and speech pattern. What is your default posture? Do you have certain words that you say often? Are there certain parts of speech that you inflect in a way that is unique?
Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how made them feel.” The attitude you choose impacts how people feel and that is the most important part of your personal brand. Not how well you are educated, not how much money you have, not the titles you hold, not even where you are from.
Oxford Dictionary defines attitude as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.” Think about that. You do not have to say anything for your attitude to be detected. Your attitude shows up in your behavior.
Why is this important? Life is too short and people do not want to add stress to their lives with negativity. Add value to those around you by being amiable. Be a light with your words. Smile. Compliment others. Be kind. Serve. Talk about the bright spots. Acknowledge success. Be a tough-minded optimist. Have a positive attitude. Be the one people want to be around because you make them feel good.
You relate to products because of their quality but you are loyal to a product because of its brand. When people make the decision to build a relationship with you, they are choosing to build a relationship because you not only produce quality work but because you also have a quality brand. Take time today and examine what your personal brand is. What do you stand for? What is it that people think about when they hear your name? How do you make people feel when they see you? If you don’t like your answers, have a trusted mentor help you navigate how to achieve a personal brand that you are proud of or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation.