Coming up with a business idea is one thing. Pitching that idea in a compelling way to an investor is something else.
Here are some tips for achieving greater impact in your next pitch…
Tip 1 – Use the Word ‘You’
A classic mistake in many pitches is to start with an ‘I-centred’ opening. The entrepreneur wastes five minutes introducing themselves!
Why is that a problem?
Because the pitch isn’t about the speaker.
It’s about the audience.
What if, instead, you crafted a ‘you-centred’ opening?
Yes, you literally use the word ‘you’ (a lot) in your opening two minutes.
What you’ll find is that you’re forced to gear your thoughts more towards your audience rather than just yourself.
Do you see?
That was five uses of ‘you’ (or ‘your’) in a single sentence, above.
So, rather than:
‘My name is X and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to… blah blah blah’
Instead, you have something like:
‘As you’ll be well aware, when thinking about XYZ…’
‘If you think about recent developments in…’
‘As you know, the XYZ market has undergone a transformation in recent years…’
It may feel a bit weird to insert ‘you’ consciously as a speaker. Trust me – out there in the real world for the listener, they’re largely invisible.
But they make a difference.
As you may have noticed.
Tip 2 – Make It Hurt!
Audience’s may complain a pitch was too long, too short, too boring, too detailed or too complex. They’ll never complain it was too relevant.
What’s the pain (or problem) which your business idea, product or service is designed to solve?
I imagine you have clarity on that point.
In your pitch, make that problem hurt for your audience (but not physically).
That means more than just stating it. Pain is not rational. It needs to be felt.
Do whatever it takes for your audience to feel that pain – whether emotional, financial, moral, organizational or other. Remember, we’re talking here about the pain that stems from your idea not having being adopted yet.
Too often in pitches, I see the problem glossed over. It’s referenced in passing, but without giving the audience an opportunity to fully digest the consequences.
I remember working with an engineer who had developed a cutting-edge technology for detecting kitchen fires. It was clever piece of kit, too, because it could distinguish between a hot hob and an actual fire.
Pitching to an audience of 200 VCs, crack engineers and angel investors, rather than start by introducing himself, he said:
“By the end of this year…
“At least two of us in this room will experience a kitchen fire.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
Tip 3 – Tell A Story
Business plans explain.
The trouble is that as human beings, we significantly underestimate the true value of our own personal experience.
Let me clarify – I’m not saying you should publise your private life. What I am suggesting is that you personalize your professional experience.
When you tell a relevant story to support a point in your pitch, you paint The result will a much more vivid and credible picture in the mind of your audience.
Ask yourself two simple questions:
What’s one of the key points I want to make?
How do I know that point is true/important?
Your answer to the second question will give you relevant life experience which you might use in your pitch.
Three quick tips on storytelling technique:
(i) Start With A Time Phrase
‘Back in March 2017…’, ‘Just last week…’, ‘Growing up as a child…’, ‘I remember back at the beginning of my career…’ and so on.
These are effective way because they anchor your story in a specific time and place, helping to orientate your listener.
(ii) Use Dialogue
By showing us exactly what was said or thought, you bring the story to life. Listeners hear the voice of the character, which adds significantly to the impact.
(iii) Identify The Critical Moment
Good stories have a Critical Moment or ‘tipping point’ where the outcome of the story is determined.
It might be the breakthrough in the development of your product. Perhaps it’s the moment when one of your customers truly understood the difference your idea could make.
By zooming in on precisely what took place, you gain credibility and, again, add significantly to the impact of the story.
These are just a few ways to add impact to pitches you deliver.
It goes without saying that your numbers need to stack up. Your plan must be sound.
But if you’re pitching to an audience, you’re delivering a ‘live’ event. That means your ability to connect in a human way becomes critically important.
As a friend of mine in private equity commented recently:
“We don’t back business plans; we back management teams.”
Seize the opportunity. Make it about your audience early.
Make the problems hurt. Share stories to bring your pitch to life.
And smash it out of the park…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Bucknall is from Toastmasters International and was the runner-up in the 2017 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.