I had an interesting experience the other evening that opened my eyes to short term communications. I have been part of a professional speaking program called ProSpeak with the National Speakers Association in L.A. for the last six months. It has been a wonderful experience, and I have learned a lot of new things, but Tuesday night was different. I had to give a 30 second pitch to the media.
I have been speaking publicly for over ten years, and have had the opportunity to speak to many different types of groups. But over that time, I never have had to actually pitch myself to anyone. At least not in a formal 30 second sound bite.
I decided to pitch my upcoming book, which is due out this summer. I wrote down the working title and made notes about the topics covered in the book and also related the book to other titles in the same book genre.
After researching the points, I came up with a short pitch that I thought would work well. I practiced it a few times and refined the points. I thought I was ready to go.
The actual pitch was made on a call-in phone conversation with other contestants from our NSA group. There were eight of us competing for four spots to actually get a chance to pitch to the media at our upcoming meeting.
I went second, and I learned a lot in those short thirty seconds. I learned that..
- 30 seconds is a really short time
- What’s in it for the listener?
- Practice, Practice, Practice.
My pitch and many of the others that were given were glorified sales pitches. What I learned quickly was that the pitch needed to be news worthy. The media or in this case the judges, were not here to buy my product or service. They wanted to know something new or compelling about the product or service and have an interesting story for their audience.
I wasn’t one of the lucky winners in the contest, but the experience really helped me see the fallacy that many people, including myself, make in promoting their product or service. We tend to use product data and lots of bullet points of information. It was clear after listening to all of the contestants that something different was needed. We all needed a compelling short story.
I went back to one of my favorite books on public speaking, entitled Made To Stick, by Chip & Dan Heath, and perused the chapters again to see if I could glean some insight into what was needed.
Here is what I came up with following the six qualities of a sticky idea presented in the book…
1. Simplicity: This was a big one. The concept better be simple or it won’t fit into thirty seconds. We need to strip an idea to its core. I definitely tried to cover too much in 30 seconds.
2. Unexpectedness: What is the news story here? How do you capture the attention of your listener? I had bullet points but nothing out of the ordinary. In my pitch, my book was the same as all of the other thousands of personal development titles. While this certainly isn’t true, that is the way it came across.
3. Concreteness: Get to the point. Make the point vivid and compelling so that the listener can remember it. Think of a memorable thirty second commercial… what makes it stick in your mind. My pitch was like wet concrete… all over the place.
4. Credibility: Why should anyone care about the news? This can really be a challenge in thirty seconds, but using popular names or products that people can relate to, can really help here. I tried to relate my book to a popular author, but it took too much time and diluted my presentation.
5. Emotional: How do you get listeners to care about the news? There had better be some emotion here or it will go over like a lead balloon. In my case, I had the facts like Joe Friday, but you know how emotionless he was.
6. Stories: Tell a story make a point. Stories stick but can be a real challenge to tell in 30 seconds. This is where the advertising masters come in. Stories can make people act on your idea, but they need to be refined to just a few sentences. I am a storyteller but 30 seconds is very difficult.
I may have another chance to pitch next weekend. Hopefully with these six qualities I can craft a much more compelling presentation. Thirty seconds to success… now I know why professional copywriters and ad people get paid the big bucks.
I also will have another challenge… The 8 second pitch… one or two good sentences… yikes!