Pitch Yourself Using Story

By Robert Holmes | business

Sep 30

Face it, we’re all in sales. We try to persuade others that our way, our choice, our task is the important or right or best one every time we select an image for Instagram, choose whose post to retweet, whose article to thumbs up or whose profile to like. We are all influencers.

But attention is scarce these days, even in job interviews or HR departments. You have to keep your audience from slipping into analytical mode, or from checking out entirely because they’ve heard it all before. You want them to decide they like what you’re saying before they know anything about it. That’s what Oren Klaff, author of “Pitch Anything” calls a hot cognition (Klaff, 2011): to go with their gut and not think too much. The best way to do that is by telling good, sharp, emotional stories.

For a successful story, you need to be the centre of it. Be vulnerable, honest and share a little of your heart and character. Begin by wrestling to overcome a problem that seems hopeless. Maybe you were forced into this trial? Of course you receive help from others (humility) and you travel with interesting company (fascinating). Finally you are offered a chance and take a risk and you ultimately overcome. See my Heros Journey material for a more lengthy discussion on story. There are at least five ways to tell your story:

The one word pitch

Daniel Pink, author of “To Sell is Human” starts out with boiling your offering down to just one word, (Pink, 2013). Most of the successful major companies can. If you were asked “Why you?” can you answer that succinctly and contrast yourself from everyone else in the room.

The vision/values pitch

Can you outline your secret sauce in a sentence, and explain why it’s different? Think about being on TV and being able to outline your area of expertise or micro-celebrity to the viewers succinctly.

The elevator pitch

If you had a chance to stand with your prospect in a queue or elevator, could you tell your story in 30 seconds? After that they’re gone so you better make it sticky!

The TED pitch

TED talk conferences (www.ted.com) only allow speakers to take a maximum of 18 minutes. Can you tell your entire, interesting story in 5 minutes from that longer presentation.

The Pixar Pitch

Emma Coats is a story artist with Pixar Animation. She has suggested the most basic form of story line goes like this: Once upon a time _____. Every day _____. One Day _____. Because of that _____. Because of that _____. Until finally _____. (Pinola, 2013).


Klaff, O. “Pitch Anything,” 2011, chapter 5, pp 129-140.
Pink, D. “To Sell is Human,” 2013, Chapter 7, pp 153-160.
Pinola, M. “Learn to become a phenomenal storyteller with Pixar’s 22 Rules,” lifehacker.com, April 2013


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About the Author

Robert is an expert in the science of human behaviour and performance enhancement with a passion for neurology, leadership and the psychology of potential. He believes it is important to bring hard science to coaching, and that coaching practices be evidence based and research backed. Robert is a founding partner at Frazer, Holmes Coaching and current Director of Brand and Marketing for the International Coach Federation Australasia (ICFA). Robert is a professionally certified coach (PCC) with over 20 years of business experience and an ICF Accredited Mentor Coach. He is an Associate at the National Speaker's Association, a member of the Coaching Psychology interest group at the APS, a certified Action Learning Coach, a Member of the Australian Institute of Management Consultants.