Whether you’re pitching for investment or selling to a customer, having your pitch tightly refined and perfected is crucial. Pitching can be intimidating at first, but by following these few simple principles, you can become a seasoned pro in no time.
TELL A STORY
The essence of a pitch is a compelling story that illustrates why someone should buy from you or invest in you. Like all good stories, your pitch should follow a beginning – middle – end structure.
1. Beginning: set the scene – start off by introducing yourself and explaining what problem your product or service solves. The first 30 seconds is crucial – you must gain the attention of your audience and develop empathy by enabling them to understand the problem. Describe this problem in a compelling way that people can relate to.
A great example of this comes from Ian Scott, CEO of TaggledTV – he opens his pitch with a question:
“Hands up how many people here have ever watched a Youtube or Netflix video and seen a product they would like to buy?”
This instantly has the majority of the audience nodding in agreement to the problem. As a caveat – if your problem solves a very unique problem that your audience are unlikely to have experienced, this approach may backfire.
You should also quantify the problem at this stage: how many people have this problem (what size is the market?) How much pain does it create for them (how much will they be prepared to pay for a solution?)
You can also use your introduction to list some of your key achievements to build credibility – name drop some big customers, talk about how much money you’ve raised and how many users you have.
2. Middle: present the solution
Once your audience understands the problem, it’s time to present them with the solution. Demonstrate how your product solves this problem and benefits your customers. Explain the value you provide, don’t provide a list of features and explain how the technology works as most people won’t understand. Use photographs or screenshots of your product as a supplement.
You should also talk about your team as part of the solution – list the strengths and relevant experience and tell your audience why you’re the best team to take your idea forward. People buy from people.
3. End – Call to Action
Finish off with a short summary of what you just said and then ask your audience to take action – this might be to sign up for a free trial, arrange a demo or to register their interest.
USE CLEAR, WELL DESIGNED SLIDES
Having well designed slides that are easy to understand is essential. Whether your audience are seasoned designers or not, if your slides are poor then this gives the impression that your product may also be poor.
Keep your slides simple – one or two points per slide. Don’t use lots of text, it will distract your audience. It’s much better to have more slides that are easy to digest, than fewer slides crammed full of information. Wherever possible, use images instead of text.
Never underestimate the power of well-designed slides. Most people don’t give their slides much attention, so by taking some extra time to ensure you have a beautiful slide deck, you can really stand out from the crowd.
If you’re struggling, ask a design savvy friend to help out.
BE AWARE OF YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
55% of your communication is nonverbal, so your body language is even more important than what you say. Pitching can be nerve-wrecking but it’s important to relax and be aware of your body language.
Always arrive prepared with plenty of time to settle into your environment, the last thing you want is to be flustered and panicked before your pitch. When you walk on stage, take a moment to relax, breathe the room – look around, absorb your surroundings while taking a deep breath. This will ground you and ensure you approach your pitch in a calm and collected manner.
Now, the most crucial step – make eye contact with your audience. Shift your gaze around the room – don’t single anyone out, but ensure you are talking to the people in the room, not your laptop or worse, the projector screen behind you.
Use hand gestures to reinforce what you are saying. If you’re passionate about what you’re talking about, this will come naturally.
It’s important to be aware of your body language, but don’t overthink it – the key is finding the balance between being intentionally aware and presenting yourself naturally.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
The real secret to delivering a great pitch is practice. Design your slide deck then stand as if you were on stage and rehearse your pitch. This is absolutely essential. It will eliminate nerves on the day because you will know exactly what to say and you won’t risk your mind going blank.
It also enables you to refine the structure of your pitch, it’s difficult to really understand the narrative by looking at slides on screen, so rehearsing your pitch helps ensure that what you’re saying flows well and makes sense.
If you have a time limit during your pitch, then practicing ensures that you will get it bang on the mark. Nothing frustrates the audience and other speakers more than a disorganised presenter who has exceeded his allocated time and is disrupting the entire schedule. Worse still, you may just be cut off once you reach your time limit.
Pitching doesn’t have to be scary if you follow these simple principles. Remember to tell a story – set the scene and explain the problem, present a compelling solution and then ask your audience to take the next step. Supplement your story will well designed slides and develop an awareness of your body language, and finally, the secret to every great pitch – practice.