Chris Westfall wants to help you talk about yourself.
As a Keynote Speaker, Writer, and Entrepreneur in Houston, Texas, Chris has taken it upon himself to help others craft their stories. As the US National Elevator Pitch Champion, there’s no one better than Chris to help you master the perfect elevator pitch.
Chris has came along way since starting his business in the less than doubtful economy of 2008. Since then, he has been on a ride to the top of business world as a sought after public speaking coach and keynote speaker.
Let’s find out more about how Chris is teaching us to understand the unique value that we have to offer. Don’t forget to check out Chris’ page and watch his videos to make your elevator pitch the one people never forget.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
You know how, when someone says, “Tell me a little bit about yourself”, that the answer is called an “elevator speech”, right? Well, a few years ago I was recognized as the US National Elevator Pitch Champion. Since receiving that recognition, I’ve been on a journey to help companies and individuals to get clear about their value proposition, to connect with the people that matter most, and to make your message matter. Stepping outside of the elevator platform, I’ve coached clients on Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den in Canada and also Shark Tank – Australia. My communication strategies have created multi-million dollar investments in a variety of industries, and helped to launch over 50 businesses in the last two years. I’ve appeared on CNN, NBC, ABC NEWS, and I’m currently writing pieces for Forbes. I do a lot of work with colleges across North America, because I’m passionate about helping the leaders of tomorrow. At the fifth largest university in the USA, I’m the official “pitch coach” – and in 2016 I coached the winners of the Rice Business Plan Competition (the largest and most lucrative business competition in the world). My latest book is called BulletProof Branding, and it’s a follow up to the international best-seller, The NEW Elevator Pitch. I’m also the publisher of The Millennial CEO and three other books. People wonder why I do what I do, and it’s because I believe that everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours?
What prompted your journey into entrepreneurship?
I started my business in 2008 – which was not a good time to start a business, because of the global economic crisis! So, you could say that the great recession prompted me to start my own business – and forced me to work harder than I ever imagined to get my business off the ground.
What do you think is the biggest learning curves millennial entrepreneurs face?
Anything you can’t Google is a challenge. You can find out what a thing is, or what a process is, but how do things really work within that process? The answers are within the people around you – but how do you go about creating a dialogue about what’s unknown (without looking like you don’t know what’s going on)? In my keynotes and workshops, I help Millennials to understand how to own their expertise, while they expand it – focusing on communication techniques that fit for older generations but that still feel authentic and real for Gen Y. The good news is: the Millennials I work with are fearless. They will try anything, because they know they are writing the rulebook. Balancing between what’s new and what’s known is the secret to effective communication – and learning how to write the rulebook (without looking like a rule- breaker) is the biggest learning curve Millennials face
What are the top 3 qualities you look for in every pitch?
- Who is the subject of your pitch? Because, if it’s just you, or your business, I’m already bored. An effective pitch always focuses on your listener – your audience. Whether that’s your boss, or Mark Cuban, or even your college professor, you have to be able to phrase your story in their terms and as it relates to them. Otherwise, nobody cares. When people say, “tell me a little bit about yourself”, it’s a trick question. What they are really asking is, “Tell me a little bit about…what you could do for ME.”
- Why do you do what you do? People want to know why – not how. Not what. But why.
- What should we do, together? Every persuasive conversation (I don’t always like to use the word “pitch” because it implies sales, which implies maybe being phony or aggressive or some other quality which is not necessarily who you are…or who you should be) ends with some sort of call to action. Some logical next step. Even if it is as as simple as trying the new sushi restaurant on Thursday: you have to know how to ask for the action that you want. Otherwise, you’ll never get it. With no action, you’ve just delivered a speech or a monologue (yawn). Action makes the conversation worthwhile, so think about the action you want to create – not just for yourself but for your listener.
What sets you apart from other business coaches?
Two things: the results I deliver, and my personal style. I realize that my style may not be a fit for everybody, but my approach is this: my agenda is YOU. I focus on the puts and takes of my clients, not on some pre-ordained curriculum, or technique (although I use a variety of resources in my coaching). Don’t you think that it’s kinda stupid that every course in school begins with Chapter 1? I mean, God forbid you have some familiarity with the subject and should really be focused on Chapter 4! What about all the successful people that just threw the book out the window, and made their own story the one that we all study? Coaching doesn’t try to teach you what you already know: it starts where you are, with your skills and your goals. Without that focus, you’re going to be pushed into some learning track which, quite frankly, may or may not be a fit for you! Sure, we all need to learn Math, Civics, History…but when it comes to accelerating a particular skill around a process, a coach is the best way to accelerate your journey. Want to climb a mountain? Hire a guide that knows the way.
I believe that the answers my clients seek are inside of themselves; they just need to know where to look, and what to do with new discoveries. My results have helped transform brands on four continents, and helped coach clients to victory at the Intel Global Capital Conference, Harvard Executive MBA Pitch Competition, and many other events – as well as receiving multi-million dollar evaluations and investments, across a broad array of industries (technology, communications, software, logistics, financial services, manufacturing and many others).
What are some tips to cope with the fear of public speaking?
My YouTube Channel is a great resource – with nearly 1 million video views, there is a wealth of information on how to be confident and overcome your fear.
Did you ever have a mentor? If so, how did they help you achieve your goals?
Over the years I have had many mentors, but never really a formal “mentor” per se. (A lot of times I was watching and observing people, making them my “mental mentor” – but never really articulated the process. Why? Because I didn’t want them to know how closely I was watching them! And, if I had a question, I didn’t worry about making somebody my mentor – I just went up and asked them! And I will ask anybody anything, believe me). My experience has been if you ask the question the right way, you might be surprised at how willing people are to help and to share! And over the course of my life and my career, I have had many many informal mentors
– because I am always learning from every situation and everyone I meet. Constant improvement is a big priority for me; I always strive to be the best I can be – and that means watching and learning from others who have accomplished much along the way.
I’ve hired coaches myself, to learn from folks who were closer to the goals I wanted to achieve – and I think that a coaching relationship is much more powerful than “mentor”. Coaching involves an investment – an investment of time and $ – but if you really want to accelerate a part of your life, that’s the best approach.
What was the biggest challenge of being an author?
The natural ability to speak and work with people is a key component of my success. However, that outgoing nature is actually a challenge when you try to write – at least it is for me! As an extrovert, I derive a lot of my energy and fulfillment in working with people – interaction and collaboration. Writing, however, involves working with your imagination and your creativity – an internal pursuit that is better suited (in my humble opinion) to introverts. History is filled with introverted people who have had great success in working with others; so too I would like to think that even though I am wired as an extrovert I have the capability to cultivate the kind of “inner life” that’s needed to write. But, probably, I’d rather spend time coaching, delivering a keynote or working directly with you than being lost in my own thoughts – it’s just my nature!
Was there ever a point you wanted to give up on your careers? What changed your mind?
I’m coaching an author right now on her first book, and she talks a lot about “crossroads” – those places in our lives where we could turn left, or right, or just stay stopped. I’ve faced many crossroads, and certainly that is true in my career – the moment when you say, “Is all this work really worth it? Where is this going?”
The key for me is, making the client’s needs more important than my own self-doubts. I do what I do not because of my own personal agenda – don’t get me wrong, I do have my own self interests at heart, I am not a philanthropist or a Saint by any stretch – but my clients needs are more important than my doubts. My fears. My insecurities. All of which I have in abundance, by the way. I used to think of quitting as a termination – a full stop on a destination, like quitting a job, or breaking up in a relationship. What I’ve learned is that quitting isn’t a stopping place – it’s a course correction.
My mission is- my desire to help people to craft and deliver stories that make a difference is a goal that is bigger than my own personal shortcomings. Nobody is perfect; I accept that. I accept my imperfections. Luckily, my clients do too. Some of them even learn to get more comfortable with their own imperfections as we both move forward together – course correcting as we go. We may not be perfect, but we make progress. That progress is what helps me to push through the crossroads, push through the doubt, and find the treasure within the imperfections we all share. There’s no need to quit, when you feel you are moving forward – especially if you are helping others on their journey as well.
That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it.