July 18

Can you sum up your research in 2 minutes?

We have all been in that meeting room, where everyone introduces themselves – name, where they're from, and what they're working on right now. Some people mumble a few sentences, downplaying their own research and squirming under the spotlight. Others soak up the attention, rambling on about the research, its context, and all of possible related veins of research – maybe their life story, as well.

How long does it take you to sum up your research?

20 seconds or 20 minutes?

If you are a researcher and writer, then you are also a small business, of sorts. You create an intellectual product, manifested in books, papers, and presentations, that you want to provide to a particular market. You require funding – customers, if you will – to continue producing your intellectual product. Every time you are in a meeting room, at a conference, even mixing and mingling at a social gathering, you have an opportunity to generate interest in your research.

If you can successfully pitch your research to a person or a group of people, doors will open to you. You may find people who want to collaborate, connect you to funding, buy your book, or, heck, hire you. If you cannot pitch you research, you will probably not be able to continue your research pursuits; your small business will sink.


I recommend that you develop the following pitches for your arsenal:

30-second pitch: Useful at a party or large convention, where time is short and people are distracted. Be able to quickly identify your research niche, describe your current project with some specific details, and why your research is important. If they're interested, they'll ask follow-up questions.

2-minute pitch: Useful for the first part of a meeting, when everyone has a few minutes to introduce themselves. Too short, and people will shrug you off as boring. Too long, and people will be hesitant to engage you in conversation after the introductions because you'll just talk the whole time.

The goal here is to pique the interest of others in the room, so that they come up to you and want to get to know you better. Again, identify your niche, describe your current project, why it's important, and let others know why you are personally connected to the research. These introductions are a great way to attract conversation after the meeting.

20-minute pitch: Useful for presentations that are devoted to your research, perhaps you're presenting for a conference or a job interview. This is your chance to more fully elaborate your research, but do be careful. This is not your chance to describe every detail of your methodology or to tell stories about random things that have happened to you during research. Remain focused. Outline a few main points, and allow several minutes to fully elaborate each point.

The goal here is to package your complicated research in such a way that whoever hears your presentation could tell someone else who you are, what you do, and why it's important.

Write down each type of pitch and rehearse it.

Create a mental scenario that provides some incentive or pressure.

The publisher you most want to take on your newest book walks into Starbucks, and she stands right behind you in line. If you can intrigue the publisher's before you reach the register in 45 seconds, she may offer to sit down for coffee with you. She says, “Well, hi there. I hear you're working on a new book. What's it about?” That's your cue – go.

You're in a meeting with 15 people you admire terribly. Form a mental image of the people in the room, maybe your favorite author or an esteemed colleague. Everyone takes a turn introducing themselves and their latest project. It comes time for your introduction, and you have 2 minutes – go.

You have a chance at a prestigious, high-paying job in a friendly, stimulating workplace. Adrenaline pumps through your veins every time you think about this job. The hiring committee has reserved a conference room that is ideal for your presentation – any prop you would want, from projectors or smart boards to lighting and a stage. Anything. Everyone in the room is critical to whether or not you get hired. But one person is missing, the senior hiring person. Whether or not you land the job depends on your ability to communicate your personality and your research in such a way that the people present could tell the senior hiring person who you are, what you do, and why it's important. The room quiets, the lights turn down, and all eyes are on you – go.

Ruminate on these scenarios. Craft, memorize, and rehearse your responses.

Then, practice follow-up questions.

After your pitch, what might the publisher or the author or the hiring committee ask? List out at least five questions and your answers. Practice them.

Once you feel comfortable with your pitches and answers, you'll find writing about your research immensely easier because your mind will be clear about your research goals and intents.

What do you think? Have you ever been in a situation where you pitched your latest project and nailed it? Or watched your pitch flop to the ground? Any advice for people out there crafting their pitches?

Leave a comment below!


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