Go pitch yourself


The author hosting a college radio show

If I’m going to be pitching an idea to other people, I think it’s important to practice saying it out loud. So, even though I hate the sound of my own voice, I pitch it to myself.

I go get a coffee, fire up Voice Memos on my phone, and walk around the city explaining my idea as succinctly as possible. Then I listen back to it, cringe horrifically, and do it again.

While developing an idea, I usually start with notes or writing or slides. But if I’m ever going to be presenting or explaining it out loud, I need to practice it out loud. Reading it in my head is not the same. Some words look good on paper but don’t translate well to speech; some turns of phrase are impossible to remember on the spot.

On the first listen-through, I try to just eliminate the uhms and ahhs. These are a sign that I am not confident in what I am saying, and I usually just cut whatever made me pause.

On the second, third, and fourth passes, I ask: am I rambling? Where should I be pausing and waiting for a reaction? Did I say the same thing twice, just in different ways? Am I talking too fast? (I am always talking too fast; I have never thought I was talking too slowly)

When I did college radio I recorded all my shows and forced myself to listen back through them. The music selection was stellar, naturally. The mixing was decent. The mic breaks were painful. I would awkwardly back-ID tracks, sloppily interview guests, make terrible jokes, and otherwise embarass myself on air. I hated every second of listening to myself, but I got better every week. Clearer, more succinct, better mic handling, better corraling of guests, better timing with the sound effects, background music at just the right level.

I started doing this “pitch myself” idea based on a suggestion from Diana Kimball Berlin, who would wear a lapel mic and record her talks, so she could post them on SoundCloud. I just started recording the practice talks too.