Updated: Aug 26, 2019
I spend a lot of time listening to pitches. With over twenty years sales experience you quickly start to spot the good from the painful. In understanding what makes a pitch good perhaps we should start with why you are pitching.
When you are clear on the why of your business and the why driving you to share the pitch in that moment, then you can start to piece together the how.
Too many pitches ramble, take too long to deliver the important information and litter the pitch with uncertainty. All these things can ultimately kill the pitch, or at least disengage the audience from the potential impact you might have.
To help you I have put together five C’s that when incorporated into the pitch and its preparation, increases the power you have in connecting with your audience.
Curated content, calm, clarity and confidence, these are the components of a good pitch, and any other situation that calls upon you to address an audience of 1 or 100.
Curated content — Don’t assume the best words will just come to you when you need them. Write it down, all of it, sit down and commit your entire value proposition to text. Write it holding in mind that whomever is listening probably has not heard about this idea or business before. Avoid making assumptions about what is or isn’t obvious. The chances are you have been thinking and working on this idea for some time, it’s easy to forget that and miss important information, or deliver it way to late in the pitch. By writing it down you can examine the content, placement and flow making adjustments to improve its impact.
Start by telling them who you are and the name of your business. Tell them what it is and what problem it solves, who it solves it for and how it solves it. Finish by inviting them to learn more and connect with you after the pitch.
For guidance, consider if you were in the audience how long would it take to understand what the pitch was about? Does it explain everything it needs to, to bring about your desired outcome?
Calm — Don’t rush, we quite commonly speak too quickly when communicating important ideas. Speaking quickly can interfere with our breathing, in turn affecting the way the words are spoken. As part of the preparation, I encourage clients to record themselves delivering their pitch, better still, video it. We are often unaware of our bodies when presenting and it can be quite revealing to see how we actually look when speaking. We discover all manner of previously unnoticed body ticks, repetitive actions or realise we are completely inanimate. Watching yourself can be quite a painful experience, but it’s worth it in the long run, when you are aware of something, you can change it, when your not you can’t, it’s that simple.
The other benefit for recording is that you get to time the delivery. You find out how long three minutes actually feels like and if what you have spoken in that time is all that you need to convey. Start off by speaking your full pitch, it’s likely to over run the allotted three minutes but you need to start from here. You then go back and examine what has been written and start to refine the story and language you have used. I always say that every word must earn its place in your pitch. Ask, does the sentence advance the understanding of my pitch value or not?
With a deepening understanding of what you need to convey you start to reduce the content down to its essence, bringing it into alignment with the time you have to deliver in. Your pitch is an evolving narrative; it will develop over time as you understand more about your ideal client and the problem you solve, so the pitch you create from day one will most likely change.
Clarity- Don’t use filler words like err and umm. Clarity is a composite of the way you speak, your tempo, annunciation, the language you use together with the order in which you share the story. Clarity is also influenced by your state of being. Being relaxed in the moment, standing upright allowing the body to breathe freely, pausing for impact when delivering important details.
There is as much power in the space between the words as the words themselves. When you pause, without errs and umms, you do so for effect, not because your mind is scrabbling for the next words to say. If you’re prone to nerves when speaking or generally dislike the experience I urge you to confront this resistance, you can go a long way in overcoming these ideas and feelings by adopting simple breathing techniques before pitching or having a deeper look inside at where the resistance comes from.
Confidence — If you don’t come across as believing in what you say, how can you expect others to? Own the words, delivering them like you were giving your date of birth, information that is just embedded. To get to that level of mastery of them, I say practice, practice, practice then, practice some more. Getting to the point where you can easily recall the pitch word perfectly from memory. That might mean practicing many times a day for weeks. Doing so integrates the value proposition with who you are.
The most powerful presenters are aligned with their thoughts, words and actions. They are completely congruent. It is that congruency which helps your audience connect with you, it’s powerful.
During the pitch, lock eyes with different people in the audience, especially when making a key statement. Make sure that it gets delivered to a person rather than letting it float away. Move your body when you speak, your posture and animation are the actions that emphasises the words delivered.
Confidence is being completely clear and aligned with your Why, having prepared the best words to convey your value, having practiced it extensively to integrate it into your being and being calm but delivering it with energy.
If you are truly serious about making your start-up work you must pay attention to how you understand, articulate and deliver the value it represents. If you don’t, you are increasing the difficulty and time it takes to reach your ideal client.
You are going to discover quickly that there are things you’re good at and things you’re not, you have to get okay with the stuff you’re not, because if you get to the stage where you’re seeking to raise investment, it’s not only the business that is being scrutinised by investors but also the person pitching it.