Pitching yourself and presenting your ideas effectively

Based upon a “classic” from the SWE Learning Center webinar series, timeless insights on how to effectively present oneself bear repeating.

By SWE January 7, 2016

From one perspective, every talk is a pitch. The words you use and the talks you give can be persuasive and stick in the minds of others, or they can scatter in the wind like packing peanuts in a hurricane. Your job with every talk is to connect with your audience and persuade people of something, not just to educate and give out information.

Every speech, presentation, or business dialogue is a pitch, really. Whether it’s a new business pitch or a status update with your boss or your team, or an interview for a stretch assignment, each is an opportunity to connect and persuade.

Adopting the model of an "entrepreneur," you have got to be the persuader-in-chief. You’ll find, as people who have mastered pitching and selling know, that the best way to sell and connect with others is through the following four methods: 

  • Warmth 
  • Emotions 
  • Clicking 
  • Stories

Keep in mind that every presentation, every pitch, every important talk should tell a story about your business or yourself that takes your listeners on a journey — a journey that persuades them to your way of thinking.

Message or delivery?

Of course, you want to have a strong message and a strong delivery, but most of us spend a lot of time on the message and very little time on how we’re going to say it. It takes less than a second for another person to take you in and decide whether they like you and want to listen to what you have to say. It’s all based on a visual impression — how you use your facial features, the way you stand, the way you look, even whether you project warmth or not. While you might think projecting competence is paramount, how you say it is critical. Projecting power can help you sell your ideas and yourself in a pitch. There are two poses universally linked with power: taking up more space and openness. Expansive postures such as open arms project power. Closed, contracted poses such as crossing your arms in front of your body communicate low power. It’s very hard to pitch well if you’re pushing people away from you.

Emotions versus logic

In the business world, we like to believe that logic and reason prevail. It’s a myth. Emotions prevail. Studies show that people use the emotional part of the brain to make business or other decisions.

So get wise and don’t make your presentations, pitches, and talks about lots of facts, data, and analysis. Sure, make an argument for your product or service and include figures that will create interest and give reasons that tie in with your audience’s values and purpose. People need reasons to defend their decisions to others as well. But first consider what your audience wants emotionally, and reflect on how you can satisfy that need. Then tell stories and anecdotes that will connect with them emotionally about key points in your presentation. All of your stories, points, and reasons have to mean something to them on an emotional level. Advertising people tend to be great at emotional pitches, so for inspiration check out Don Draper’s nostalgic pitches in the Mad Men TV show on YouTube or Netflix.

-Catherine Kaputa is a brand strategist, speaker, author, and founder of SelfBrand, a New York City-based branding company. This article originally appeared on SWE. SWE is a CFE Media content partner.