Life’s a pitch. Seriously. Pitching is part of everyday life, whether it’s running a new idea past your boss or a client, trying to get approval for a budget you’ve planned, seeking investment for your new business, or just convincing your partner that the holiday destination you want to visit is a good idea. Pitching is essentially convincing someone to believe in you or the idea you are presenting, and to buy into it.
Research points to the fact that pitching has more than 50% impact on professionals’ success. Yet many business people, myself included, will tell you that they see a lot of poor pitches. Pitching is actually an essential business skill – the difference between a good and excellent pitch can mean the difference between getting an assignment or contract or missing out.
That’s why I really believe that pitching should be an area that gets more focus. I think the reason that it doesn’t is the fact that people have a horror of pitching. They either don’t know where to start, or they fear they will mess it up in the moment. Fancy slide decks and public speaking phobias aside though, it’s actually much easier to make a great pitch than people think. You just need to understand the core elements involved.
Common issues that I’ve seen include pitches that go over the allocated time and people who waffle and don’t ever get to the key point of their pitch.
Here’s my advice for putting together a winning pitch:
- Keep your audience in mind. Even if you have the most innovative business idea imaginable, you need to understand that your audience is likely to tune in and out of presentations based on their own internal dialogue. You can lessen the chances of them missing key information by:
- Avoiding superfluous information and sticking to the main points. Be ready to answer additional questions and go into finer details if asked, but don’t try to cram everything into your pitch. Stick with the salient points.
- Sticking to the allotted time! Practice your pitch beforehand a few times to ensure that you can address all key points within the given timeframe.
- Tailoring your pitch to the audience. For example, if you are pitching a very technical idea to a group of non-technical people, you need to steer clearing of confusing or boring them with jargon. Focus instead on the tangible benefits of your idea.
- Communicate clearly. Remember that the focus is on getting someone to agree with a point of view. This means you need to help your audience to follow a logical thinking process so that they can see the issue or opportunity the way it is intended.
- Keep to plain English. Don’t try to use the biggest, most impressive words you can – rather make sure that you are making your point in a way that everyone can understand.
- Also avoid patronising your audience. Don’t talk down to them or waste time explaining concepts they are already familiar with.
- Remember that this is not just about your pitch – you are selling ‘Brand YOU’. When pitching, you are trying to get people to buy into your idea, but in order to do that they need to buy into you first.
- Have a clear idea of your personal brand and what it represents. Get feedback from others on how they perceive you and work to address any gaps.
- Pay attention to small details that matter in how you are perceived, from the way you present yourself (how you dress, shake hands and so on) to being on time, preparing well beforehand and being able to answer any questions that your audience may have after your pitch.
- View your pitch as a story. Stories are personal and relatable. People are swayed by stories more than by abstract statistics or impressive data.
- Ask yourself what you would remember from great pitches and want to share with others, and ensure you have included anecdotes or “sound bites” that others will hang on to long after your pitch.
- Great stories have intrigue and suspense. Great pitches are the same. Leave your audience wanting more – don’t give away the whole game in your pitch.
- Answer the question “why you?” for your audience. Why should they get involved with you? Why are you the best person for this job or opportunity? What positions you to provide the best solution?
- Ensure your pitch is interactive. Nobody enjoys death by PowerPoint!
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