The 30-Second Commercial
The book about the
Doolittle Raid on Japan is titled, "30 Seconds Over Tokyo."
Sometimes you don't have a lot of time to deliver the message.
You are running a political
campaign to get yourself elected into a job, and like political
candidates, you have to market yourself in 30-second sound bites.
I do not
recommend using the North Carolina method of political campaigning.
Telling someone, "Hire me because all the other candidates
are liars and crooks" probably won't work.
I had a conversation
with my wife recently and she asked me if I felt old. I replied,
"I only feel old if I look back, so I'm not looking back,
I'm looking forward."
I guess life is like
driving a car; you should spend most of your time looking forward
to where you are going rather than staring in the rear view mirror
at where you've been.
And with that bit of
philosophy out of the way, we are ready to discuss 30-second commercials.
Building the 30-second
The 30-second commercial
should have the following qualities.
- Look forward. A 30-second commercial should concentrate
on where you want to go and not where you have been. The "where
you have been and what you have done" part comes AFTER
you deliver the commercial.
- Concentrate on skills and not on job titles. This is
especially true if you are trying to change careers or industries.
It's even more critical if you have one of those careers that
can't be summed up neatly in a two or three word job title.
- Use statistics if you can. Impress them with numbers.
- Be engaging. Create a title for yourself that will
cause people to ask, "What is that?"
- Use short declarative sentences. Use simple language
that you can deliver comfortably and that people can understand
even in a noisy room.
- Be passionate. Watch the History Channel and look
at Adolf Hitler when he spoke. The man knew how to throw his
body into the game of public speaking. You can afford to tone
it down a little. After all you are only looking for a job,
not world domination. However, a deadpan delivery will most
likely invoke a deadpan response.
- Use a punch line. After you tell them what you can
do, then tell them what you want.
- Keep it to 30 seconds. Sounds obvious, doesn't it
You have to get them in the first 15 seconds or you'll lose
them. You have to wrap it up in another 15 seconds or you'll
lose them. Then shut up! After 30 seconds, it's their turn to
talk and continue the conversation.
- Practice it. Time it. And please do not do the verbal
equivalent of shrinking the margins and point size on a resume.
30 seconds of 240 words per minute sounds more like a used car
commercial than a mini-resume.
Delivering the 30-second
There are two situations
when you can deliver the 30-second commercial: formal and informal.
commercials are used when you are expected to introduce yourself
at meetings such as network groups. You can be more formal and
"hard sell" with a group when they are expecting a commercial.
Use this commercial when you "have the floor" and are
the sole focus of the group.
Here is an example
of a formal commercial I have given.
I'm a problem
solver. I solve problems using people, process and metrics.
I lead by
influence. It doesn't matter where you put me in the organizational
chart. I can communicate across borders and get people to
interact with each other.
processes. I've cut turn-around times by 2/3 and error rates
I know what
to measure and how to use it to identify, track and report
I have done this in a software application development environment,
but I can apply these skills anywhere.
The thing that works
well with this commercial is that until the very last sentence,
the audience does not know what I am looking for. They won't dismiss
me out of hand as, "Well, we don't need IT people."
They will keep their minds open, Who doesn't need a problem solver?
Who doesn't need people with these skills? You have yourself sold
before the listener has a chance to reject you.
I am sure that the
sales people in the group have used this same technique. You don't
start the conversation with, "I'm selling vacuum cleaners."
You start with, "I have something that will make housework
easier and save you a lot of time and energy."
Keep them engaged
with your talents and what you have to offer (what's in it for
them). What you want is irrelevant. You are selling your skills,
not your old job title.
If you can do something
to make you stand out from the group then go for it if you have
the skill to pull it off. Use humor if you know how to handle
it. I once used this speech around campaign time.
Hi, I'm Dan
Flak, and I want to be your project manager.
I will cut costs, deliver products on time, and satisfy
customer needs. I will work hard so you can get home for
dinner more often and see more of your family.
I have 15
years' experience in software application development as
a project manager, product manager, and quality assurance
Go with a
candidate that has proven leadership skills, and a track
record for managing multiple projects at once. I wear many
hats and take responsibility for any project I take on.
I'm Dan Flak, and I want to be your next project manager!
commercials are used in social settings such as after hours,
trade shows, chance meetings, etc. where the contact is more one-on-one.
Instead of waiting
around passively for someone to ask you what you do, go on the
offensive and talk to them. Ask, "So what does your company
do?" or if it's an individual, "What do you do for a
These questions are
inviting a counter-attack. The questions will prompt the people
to ask you what you do out of courtesy. By getting them to talk
first, you are establishing a rapport and winning them over to
You should be more
colloquial when doing an informal 30-second commercial. Be prepared
to ease into the conversation with a transition phrase such as,
|Right now I'm
working on a career change where I can solve accounting problems
for small to medium size companies
If you plan to stay
in the same field, speak as if you are still doing the job and
if they ask where you work, then you can tell them,
|In my last
In my case, I actually
talk about my last 3 assignments.
I'm lucky enough to
have a part-time job to talk about.
I'm having a ball getting a small company on its feet. They
brought me in to make order out of chaos and I get to play
project manager, QA, trainer, tech writer, and even do some
marketing! The only bad thing is the contract is up in a couple
I get a chance to take
a breath as they ask "What kind of company?" "What
kind of business?" or similar ilk questions.
It always pays to be
creative. Part of my job is to set up and manage a system that
issues gas masks to marines. So my most recent commercial goes
|I help keep
United States Marines alive. My company has a contract with
the Martine Corps to manage their nuclear, biological and
chemical defense gear. My piece of the action is the field
protective mask. I manage the tracking and issue of over 80,000
masks in warehouses and on the hips of Marines from Cherry
Point, North Carolina to Okinawa and beyond. I see to it that
no mask gets issued that I wouldn't issue to my own son..
Now that I grabbed
them with this story I continue:
do this by leading people and using process and metrics
to assure quality. I put in place practices to bring order
to exploit the successes of the initial phases. Traditionally,
I've done this in companies or departments doing IT software
application development, but as my current position proves,
I can do it in any industry.
In a world of 30-second
sound bites, and split screen news with rolling banners at the
bottom of the display, the competition for attention is fierce.
Andy Warhol was wrong; you do not have 15 minutes of fame. You
have 30 seconds and the clock is ticking now ... .
I am looking for feedback
and other examples of 30-second commercials. If you have some,
send it here.