Your 30-second Pitch: The Art & Science of a First Impression

Can everyone in the room please introduce themselves?

Such a dreaded situation.

Public speaking is the worst fear for human beings. And it is one of the most desired skills by organizations.

The heroes that can slay this dragon made out of fear are revered all over the world. Many people can become world famous, and be known as experts in a certain topic, by delivering a great TED Talk or commencement speech.

Of course, it’s not just the speaking part, there is a lot of work that has to be done before being able to make a compelling presentation. But there is also a lot of people who fail to speak up, and promote themselves, and we are all missing out on their contributions.

If we know there is a high reward, even with the risks involved, why aren’t we making the most out of the opportunities to speak in public?

Because we, as humans, do more to not lose than to win.


Perception Is Reality

The 30-second pitch starts way before you even start pitching.

It starts with the clothes you chose to wear. With the self-talk that goes on inside your head. Even the way you walk, and your postures, can have a big impact in the way you feel and think. All those elements will have an effect in your presence.

Are you frowning or are you smiling? Are you standing up straight? Are you walking too fast?

All these actions are sending a message, even if you are not aware of it. Are your actions sending the message that goes in line with the personal brand that you want to build?

The first impression starts with the impression you have about yourself.

Marcus Aurelius, one of the wisest and most successful emperors of Rome, used a technique that we can all learn from.

He had a servant following him around whispering in his ear “You are just a man… just a man”. This would keep him humble. He knew that because of his position, his power, and his accomplishments, he had to keep his ego in check all the time.

Your case may be different. First, you should identify where are you right now on the conscience-ego continuum. Do you tend to overthink and doubt? Are you impulsive or overconfident?

Self-talk should be a mechanism you use to keep you balanced. You can use it to create the state you need to be in for a particular situation.

Use words and phrases that will help you stay centered and focused. Journaling is an action that can help you practice the habit of self-talk. You could have a “phrase or mantra of the day”, depending on the emotions and thoughts that you want to focus on.

Learn from the Best

Sometimes we have a hard time deciding what we want to have for breakfast. How can we decide what we are going to do to develop a personal brand?

Having a strong presence can seem like an overwhelming task.

The easiest way to tackle that big project is to break it down into more manageable steps or goals.

  • Body Language
  • Clothes
  • Verbal communication

These are all important elements. And you could set a timeline to work in each of those individually and methodically.

You can also see what others have done, that has worked for them, and copy what you think will work for you. If you can identify with someone, because they have a similar background or because you share some of his ideas and mindsets, then you could start by copying them.

There is nothing wrong with copying to start. Pablo Picasso famously said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal”.

Search for those role-models, that you identify with, and you could take some of the things they do. And incorporate those elements into your brand. This will allow you to get started, which is the most important step.

Most of the time, innovation doesn’t come from creating something completely new. You could simply put together two existing things and that will be an innovation.

The same will happen with your personal brand. You will start by taking elements from others and at some point, you will be in a position to create something unique.

There are so many places where you can find role models:

  • CEOs of companies you would like to work for
  • Influencers in your industry
  • Fictional characters from movies or TV series
  • Leaders at the company you are working for


David Ogilvy, who is considered the “Father of Advertisement”, knew the power that an image could have.

He knew that, on the average, headlines below the illustration will get more readers that headlines above the illustration. The image comes before the words. The illustration has to get people’s attention. Once you have their attention, they will be more open to listening to what you have to say.

The same process applies to you.

You want to create value and make more money by getting a promotion, getting a better job, or getting more customers. It all starts with your image. A first impression is made up in 4 seconds, which is why the way you dress and move have a big weight on that impression.

What you say, during the first interaction, is like the title of the article. You already have a good image and you’ve caught people’s attention. Now what? The title of the article is what drives people to read it. If you want people to listen to you then your first words have to be strategic.

Here is where the “30-second pitch” comes in. Words are only 7% of the message but still, we have to master that too.

On the next article, we will go into detail about the anatomy of an excellent 30-second pitch. You will be able to advance step by step. Starting with the strategy of constructing a pitch, and then going to the tactics that will help you practice and achieve a great delivery.

Learning and sharing knowledge are my passions, let’s connect if those are yours too.

Alejandro is a Bauer MBA, Stock Analyst for the Cougar Fund, President of the MBA Consulting Club, and President of SURE Incubator.

Other recent and popular posts by Alejandro I. Sanoja:

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