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Want to Get Into the College of Your Choice? Develop an Elevator Pitch Now

04/28/2015 01:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2015

I promised my best friend and nieces I'd get their daughters into the college of their choice for free. That's correct. Free. I want to help them apply for all the scholarships and grants available so they won't have to take out loans to attend school.

So, the summer before their junior year of high school, I approached this task the same way I prepare a proposal for one of my multi-million dollar clients. With my presentation and handouts nicely packaged for each teen, I was determined to make this happen.

The girls came to my home, and I stood in front of them with my agenda outlining a plan to get them scholarships and grants for free college tuition. Then, I asked each of them to take three minutes to tell me about themselves and their college aspirations. What happened next was surprising. These beautiful, wonderful, straight-A students struggled to speak publicly. They're great at writing reports and they can text until their fingers turn blue, but public speaking is foreign to them.

They were not prepared to go to a college interview and clearly and concisely articulate who they are, what they've done, what they want to do, and why this college should want them to attend it. I explained to them what an elevator pitch is and demonstrated mine. My elevator pitch tells who I am, what companies I've worked for, what my technical background is and why I'm the right person to build their multi-million dollar cloud solution.

An elevator pitch is a presentation about yourself that grabs the attention of the person you're speaking to in one to two minutes (the time to go about 10 floors in a packed elevator). A great pitch makes the person you're speaking to want to hear more. It's NOT long and shouldn't leave the person asking, "So, what?"

I want to prepare girls everywhere for success by sharing the same information I gave these teens about what an elevator pitch is, how you prepare one and when/how you use it.

Here are my 10 tips for developing and presenting your own elevator pitch:

1. Know your audience.
2. Tailor your interests so others feel they can benefit from your unique approach to solving problems.
3. Provide enough information to get your message across.
4. Write, read and edit your elevator pitch.
5. Say it out loud to someone.
6. Memorize it and update it often.
7. Know when to use it and use it as often as possible.
8. Be energetic and enthusiastic, and BREATHE!
9. ALWAYS ask for the next meeting to provide more details.
10. Practice at every opportunity.

Now, the girls know when they see me that I'm going to ask for their pitch. They've really improved -- they're confident and maintain eye contact. Girls everywhere should develop a compelling elevator pitch about themselves. It'll set them on the road to success and on the way to college. For free.