7 tips for a riveting business pitch

woman in hallway

Every business woman needs to nail down her pitch, that 30-second spiel that lays out who you are and what you’re doing—before the listener’s eyes drift toward the window.

The perfect pitch explains, tantalizes—and gets you what you want, whether that’s another meeting or the right next contact. Here’s how to hone your pitch so it hits all the right notes:

  • A great pitch is a story, not an inventory. “You don’t want to list what you’ve done, but rather weave information together into a compelling synopsis,” says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.

    Briefly identify what motivated you (e.g. a market need, a moment of clarity); expand that into what your business, product, or talent is; land on what you’re looking for.

  • Make it flexible. “If you deliver the same pitch to everyone, what you say comes off like a public service announcement,” says Cohen. “You need a boilerplate, but it has to have pieces that you can move around, tweak and modify.”

    Keep the basic story consistent, but be ready to play up (or downplay) certain points, depending on whom you’re talking to, he advises.

    Are you simply making a contact? Exploring a dialogue? Or are you hoping your listener will be revved enough to grab their partner so you can talk next steps?

  • Rehearse. Write down your pitch and practice it in front of the mirror. If you can videotape yourself for review that’s even better. You want to be polished and prepared so you can be truly spontaneous. The last thing you want is to come off as if you’ve been cramming for an exam, says Cohen. “When you try to wing it, it always shows.”

  • Keep your pitch current. Update your pitch to incorporate new trends and events, both personal and within your industry.

  • Beware of TMI or talking too much. When you’re nervous, or when the adrenaline is flowing, there’s a risk of padding your pitch with extraneous information. Breathe, speak slowly, stay calm to avoid apologizing or downplaying yourself, says Cohen.

    And stay tuned to social cues that suggest you’re coming on too strong or asking a contact for something he or she isn’t ready to give. “A good pitcher knows when to back off.”

  • Exercise (spin) control. Your situation may not be perfect—but whose is? Maybe you were laid off, maybe your business isn’t fully funded yet. Keep your pitch free of excuses, apologies, or defensive explanations, Cohen says.

    Cohen worked with a client who had been out of work for two years, but used that time well—taking classes, traveling, caring for her sick mother, and networking. “For her to say ‘I’ve been out of work’ would be offering an explanation for her time off, not a pitch.”

    Instead, the woman crafted a more dynamic presentation of her situation that was more appealing to potential clients.

  • Show your passion. “Enthusiasm that shows how much you enjoy what you do goes a long way to attracting business prospects,” says Cohen. “Someone who loves what they do so much that you feel it, is someone you remember.”

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