If you’ve been following my Twitter and Facebook posts, you may have come cross my formula for a fantastic pitch:
Preparation + Practice + Passion = Pitchtastic!
This formula can be applied to any type of pitch from a 30 second elevator pitch that you might deliver at a networking event right through to pitching for millions of pounds worth of investment. So let’s look at each element individually:
Mark Twain is quoted as saying ‘It usually takes me 3 weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech’. He knew the importance of preparation to ensure your pitch is delivered naturally and confidently.
The very first part of your preparation should be to determine your objective. What is the aim of your pitch? What do you want your audience to think, feel or do after hearing your pitch? This might be a simple as inviting them to check out your website for further information through to asking them to invest money in your company.
As part of your preparation you should do some thorough research on your audience. Questions may include:
- Who are they?
- Why are they there?
- What do they know about you/your business/your product/your service?
- How do they feel about you/your business/your product/your service?
Once you are clear on who your audience is and what you want to achieve, you can start to craft the content of your pitch. This will almost always include something about the problem/pain point your product or business solves as well as information about your solution. Mention why you differ from your competition and why they should choose you. Depending on the type of pitch, here are some other elements you may like to consider including:
- Success stories
- Benefits (more important than features)
- Market size
- Route to market
- Sales strategy
- Revenue model
- Team / Board / Advisers / Partners
You should always start with a hook to grab the audience’s attention. This could be a question, a story, a startling statistic or some other rhetorical device - you can read about more attention grabbing ways to open a presentation here.
And you should always end your pitch with a very clear call to action so that your audience understands exactly what you want them to do following your pitch.
It is well documented that Steve Jobs practised for days before giving one of his outstanding speeches. Many people don’t practice enough and then end up with a less than impressive delivery; in fact you should spend more time on practice than preparation. Rehearsing out loud will help you to practice:
- the flow of the words, allowing you to identify where you need to trim or add more detail
- projecting your voice and identifying what to emphasise with vocal variety or pause
- using your body language and gestures to reinforce your points and engage your audience
- using your equipment and any visual aids (depending on the type of pitch you are delivering)
- making your delivery look, feel and sound natural
Ideally you should practice in front of people to get some feedback in time to incorporate it before the actual pitch takes place.
If you are not passionate about whatever you are saying, why should anyone else be? Passion is the secret ingredient that will help you to engage your audience and stand out as someone who is committed and confident in the service, product, business or idea that you are pitching.
One of the problems I have noticed with many pitches is that people don’t seem to pitch with any enthusiasm; they may be extremely passionate, but lack the ability to communicate that effectively. It is important to remember that your audience is probably hearing your pitch for the very first time so you need to communicate your passion through your non-verbal communication as well as the words you use. This will help the audience to know how you want them to feel about what you’re saying. Actors use what is called subtext to bring their performances alive and you can use this same technique to give your pitch an edge. Click here to find out more about incorporating subtext.
So what makes a pitch pitchtastic? Based on your objective, you will have different ways to measure the success of your pitch. However, a great pitch will always:
- Engage your audience
- Keep their attention
- Establish your credibility
- Demonstrate your passion
- Inspire confidence in your idea/business
- Make your audience curious to find out more
Whatever context you are pitching in, the aim is usually to start a further dialogue. If you have prepared and practiced well and can inject some passion into your delivery, you will have a much better chance of engaging people and ensuring that your pitch strikes the right note!
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_