It’s not just salespeople or entrepreneurs who need to master the art of the pitch. Whatever your line of work may be, knowing how to make a good pitch is an essential skill for your arsenal.
Job-hunting? You’ll need to make the perfect elevator pitch to land your dream job.
Asking your boss for a raise? You have to know how to execute it with equal parts finesse, substantiation, and negotiation.
Proposing company funding for a specific course you want to take for professional advancement? You should know how to convince your boss that it’s a worthwhile investment.
In short, knowing how to make a good pitch is itself a high ROI investment in your future; here’s how you can master it in seven simple steps.
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Tailoring your pitch to your audience is crucial. To quote Sun Tzu in the Art of War: “If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Never go into a pitch blind. Find out who you’ll be pitching to and prepare extensively by researching them. What makes them tick? What’s the best way to connect to them? How can you best endear yourself to them without making yourself look like a slick brown-noser?
The first minute of your pitch sets the tone for the rest of it. If you start with a sputter, you’re not likely to blow people’s minds by the time you end. Grabbing people’s attention straight away helps you nail the first part of the buy-in: making them sit up and listen to you.
The best way to do this is to start with establishing empathy. Make yourself instantly relatable to your audience and stir their emotions; use personal anecdotes, visualisation exercises, or tell an interesting story.
Now that you’ve successfully caught their attention, you need to sustain it. Segue neatly from your opening into the meat of the presentation.
Begin by fleshing out the problem that you intend to solve, then state what your solution is in simple terms.
The keyword here is “simple.” You probably won’t have much time for your pitch, and in any case, people are already bombarded with vast amounts of information daily. Don’t over-think or over-complicate it; making your pitch as easily digestible as possible works to your advantage in this case.
When in doubt, follow the KISS rule: Keep it Short and Sweet.
Even if you do a great job of stating the problem and the solution, it won’t make a difference if you don’t sell your idea. Your audience has to be convinced that what you’re proposing is worth buying into.
Put yourself in their shoes; spell out clearly what they stand to gain if they get on board with you.
Remember that what’s immediately apparent to you isn’t always clear to them. You’re already familiar with all the ins and outs of your proposal, but they’re not. Keep linking every point you make back to the benefits so you can really drive it home.
You can’t argue with cold, hard facts. Rambling on about how people stand to gain without substantiating it with evidence will make you look like you’re full of hot air.
For every claim you make in your pitch, back it up with numbers. Include statistics, pie charts, graphical representations, even scientific research if you need to. Again, as you’re gathering the hard evidence for your pitch, don’t forget to simplify everything.
The magic of a good pitch lies in its content and delivery, not in its slides.
Less is more; don’t waste your time creating elaborate PowerPoint presentations with beautiful formats and fonts.
Visual aids are there to boost your pitch, not to give you a crutch to rely on should you forget what to say or do.
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki uses the 10/20/30 rule for pitches: 10 slides for 20 minutes, in size-30 font. It forces you to pare your visual aids down to what’s absolutely necessary.
Take your cue from the world’s top CEOs. Steve Jobs favoured whiteboards over PowerPoints, because “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
Likewise, Jeff Bezos has even banned PowerPoint presentations from executive meetings and replaced them with six-page narrative memos.
By the time you enter the room to make the actual pitch, your routine should be flawless from start to finish.
That doesn’t happen overnight; you need to put in the hours and keep practicing until it’s “pitch perfect.”
Don’t just rehearse it in the comfort of your room, behind a closed door, or even only with family members. Go out and practice it in different settings–even to strangers, if need be–and keep gathering useable feedback.
Guy Kawasaki has some useful advice on this: start anew after every five pitches. The feedback you will have gained after those five pitches will be enough to do a total overhaul of your pitch.
Simply put: keep on keeping on.