Six intangibles that make a great pitch
August 20, 2012 in Startup
“Content is king.” This phrase is ever more pervasive for things like Search Engine Optimization, and rightly so. Yet when doing an elevator pitch or an investor presentation, content is really only one part of the equation. Too many people overlook the â€śhowâ€ť â€“ how you deliver the content â€“ even though it is actually â€śhowâ€ť that can get you noticed and get the follow-on meeting.
Ignoring the â€śhowâ€ť is like building great technology, but not having an effective go-to-market strategy to get the technology in the hands of customers.
REfficient is a finalist in Lionâ€™s Lair, a Hamilton-based investment forum. As part of the competition, we recently had pitch training where we watched various pitches and received coaching ourselves. This session solidified some of the observations I had at other venues â€“ there are important factors that make a great pitch that may have nothing to do with your business, but should not be overlooked.
Here are some of my lessons learned.
Give analogies to help people visualize
People often intuitively understand things when they can visualize or organize it in their head. Analogies or comparisons are a great way to encourage this.
In the case of REfficient, we came up with â€śGo shopping in another companiesâ€™ surplus inventory.â€ť As soon as I said that, one of the other finalists said he visualized pushing a shopping cart around someoneâ€™s office and grabbing the equipment they no longer needed. While this is not literally what we do, this is a great analogy of what we enable companies to do, helping them to optimize reuse.
Use your hands
Help people visualize or organize by using your hands to emphasize points. What do you do with your hands while you are pitching anyway? Use your hands to list points, or show a process flow. These subtle movements can help people understand your words. Of course, if you overdo the use of your hands, it is distractingâ€”so find the right balance.
Use voice variations
Who on TV do you find interesting to watch and listen to? Most people on TV are masters of using voice inflections.
When doing your pitch, change up the volume and speed depending on what you are saying. Add little pauses for emphasis. Build up momentum at the end. If you make your pitch interesting, it will only emphasize your content.
This sounds clear, but it is amazing how many people do not sound confident when they pitch. People need to see that you believe in yourself and the product/service you offer â€“ otherwise, how can they believe in you? Beyond your pitch, confidence shows you will be able to handle situations in business â€“ and entrepreneurs know that dealing with new and unexpected situations is all part of the game.
Sometimes confidence is not something we can gauge ourselves. Practice your pitch in front of people you trust and ask them if you inspire confidence and interest in them. Alternatively, record yourself, put yourself in the audience’s position and play it back. What do you really hear and see?
Follow the guidelines
A mistake I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they do not follow the guidelines of the pitch. They use a presentation made from another circumstance and do not take the time to adapt it to the new guidelines. I have seen this numerous times in terms of time allotment.
If you are asked to give a 6-minute pitch, then design your presentation to be done prior to the time allotment. Do not be lazy and use your standard 15-minute slide deck! Otherwise, you will get cut off and miss out on the opportunity to get through all your important information and really impress.
Practice makes perfect
Isnâ€™t that just common knowledge? This seems like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how often people wing things. The reality is that even great presenters practice a lot. Steve Jobs apparently used to practice his infamous presentations for two full days in advance, asking for feedback and refining.
While I am good on my feet and enjoy presenting, I do practice a lot prior to any pitch or presentation. If I donâ€™t nail it, it is only my doing.
And that is just it â€“ we get out of a pitch whatever we put into it, whatever business we are in.