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New Investigator Digest

Posted By Connections Editor, Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Art of a Good Pitch - How to Skillfully Sell Yourself and Your Science

Heather O’Leary, Isabel Beerman, Simon Haas, Sofie Singbrant, and Stephen Sykes

During all stages of the professional progression of a scientific career, from student, to trainee, junior-faculty and onto senior principle investigator, you will be challenged with the task of selling your science and yourself. Whether it is to your peers, interviewers, reviewers or potential donors, you must be able to briefly and effectively convey the nature, conclusions, implications and applications of your life’s work. Therefore, this Connections article is focused on how to expeditiously, and skillfully, sell yourself and your science with some helpful tips from the well-established investigators and talented communicators: Dr. Leonard Zon (Harvard Medical School/ Children’s Hospital Boston) and Dr. Michael Milsom (The Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine/ German Cancer Research Center).

Their first piece of advice was to prepare a few versions of your elevator pitch based on the different subsets of people to whom you may wish to sell your science. In other words, know your audience and gear the information to their level. Dr. Milsom explained: “For example, preparing a talk for the specialist in your field that you may encounter at a meeting would have the expectation of technical language and include the key experimental data that supports your story. However, a broader scientific audience, such as a non-specialist conference, some funding agencies or editorial staff, may require less technical language and additional context about the relevance and potential impact of your work. Finally, the hardest one to compose in terms of effort and preparation, is the educated non-scientist. This could be when dealing with the press, members of the public, or potential donors. Here it is important to break down your key points into non-scientific language and take the time to run your talk past non-scientists friends to make sure you are effectively getting your points across and pitching at the right level”.

Dr. Zon recommended a simple structure to help keep your pitch short and to the point by incorporating 6 key sentences into the talk. “The first sentence should be a broad introduction of the topic to try and inform the audience and get them excited about your work. The second sentence provides the rationale/meaning of your work followed by two sentences of well communicated, quality data. The final two sentences are a summary of the work you have actually completed, and the conclusions you were able to draw from it, followed by the future uses and applicability of those findings.” An example of a pitch following this outline by Dr. Zon about his own research can be found in the following link:

Finally, Dr. Milsom emphasized “It is important to practice, practice, practice. You never know when you are going to need to deliver your pitch so, like a good scout, be prepared!” Dr. Zon also added that “If you are shy, basically get over it. Because this is a skill that you will have to utilize for the rest of your life.”

With this helpful advice from established investigators in mind, we hope that you feel better equipped to more effectively convey yourself, and the value of your work, to a broader audience.

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