Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP
When you are approached by new acquaintances, individuals you haven’t seen for some time, or when meeting business colleagues you want to impress, how do you respond to common questions related to what you do for a living? Instead of choking or reacting poorly, perfect your “elevator pitch” by preparing and then delivering it in a clear, concise and confident manner.
The truth is, how we communicate and articulate our thoughts significantly influences the perceptions others have of you, your organization, and the services offered. Never again be caught off-guard! Learn and practice a flawless strategy to express yourself with poise and polish over endless and unclear pontification.
First and foremost, the hallmarks of spoken communication are represented by the “Three C’s”:
- Clear: A well-defined message that your listener(s) understands
- Concise: Key points that are stated succinctly and make sense for your listener(s)
- Confident: Command attention, maintain poise and be more persuasive
Speaking with greater clarity, conciseness and confidence begins with structure. When you prepare a message, talk or presentation, you should do so with structure in mind. And one of the most powerful structures I help clients with is called, “The Rule of Threes.” Believe it or not, people don’t tend to remember more than three things—it’s a reliable, basic structure that works incredibly well. But why?
“The Rule of Threes” is persuasive—meaning your audience is more likely to trust your reasoning with a three-part argument. It’s rhythmical by creating momentum—moving your listeners from point A to point B to point C. Additionally, this method is memorable, as it is far easier to remember three points over other numbers like four, five or six. If you’re skeptical, consider a few three-part examples from your childhood:
- Three little pigs
- Three blind mice
- Three Musketeers
Here are some additional three-part structures that may sound familiar to you:
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Knife, fork, spoon
- Appetizer, entrée, dessert
- Stop, drop, roll (fire)
- Before, during, after
- Red, yellow, green (stop light)
- Elementary, middle, high school
- Morning, afternoon, evening
- Last year, this year, next year
Granted, sometimes using three points doesn’t pass the common sense test, like when comparing profitability figures for the four quarters of last year. Regardless, this rule is a highly effective guideline for identifying and structuring key points of a message.
The next time you are planning to attend a networking function—like an educational conference or a business meeting with some unknown faces—prepare for and practice how you can best answer a common question you can anticipate being asked: “What do you do for a living?” For me, I would communicate my “elevator pitch” by saying, “I love what I do for a living by inspiring and helping others as a:
- Keynote speaker
- Training professional
If the person is interested in learning more, s/he will likely ask a follow-up question such as, “As an author, what books have you written?” Because I will come prepared, I would then answer that question by sharing the titles of three of my most relevant books or group them by topic.
Speaking in front of others can certainly be stressful; however, it is a critical skill today. It literally shapes your audience’s perception of you, the organization you work for and the services offered. And each time you face the fear of speaking, you’ll gain strength, courage and confidence. But it takes practice.
Just remember…practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good; it’s the thing you do that makes you good.