Many clients have asked me to post my Top Ten Tips for Delivering a Winning Pitch article online so they can share it with their colleagues and take it viral.
Ask and ye shall receive.
Top Ten Tips for Delivering a Winning Pitch – by Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert and inventor of The POP Process
You’ve invested months or years into developing your business.
Now, you have minutes to intrigue and impress potential investors.
The following tips can help you command the attention, respect and interest of decision-makers so they’re motivated to request a follow-up meeting.
1. Speak Loud and Clear So People in the Back Row Can Repeat Every Word:
Whether it’s fair or not, decision-makers determine your “clout” – your perceived ability to get things done on a grand scale – by the volume of your voice. People who speak softly aren’t perceived as powerful.
You don’t want to force people to have to say, “I can’t hear you.” That means they’re already frustrated with you. Project and e-nun-ci-ate so everyone in the room can repeat what you just said. Why is that important? If they can’t repeat it; they didn’t get it. And if they didn’t get it; you won’t get it.
2. Use Your Voice Like a Musical Instrument:
Use a warm, lower register voice to resonate with listeners. No iced drinks beforehand. They freeze your vocal chords & make you sound nasal. A high-pitched, “little girl” voice causes investors to doubt your ability to carry off a multi-million dollar venture. Ending with upward inflection makes you seem unsure – as if you’re asking for approval. Follow the example of broadcasters and end sentences with downward inflection so you’re exuding a voice of authority and will be considered an authority.
3. Speak to People’s Eyes to Engage Everyone in the Room.
The audience is not your enemy. Your goal is to connect with every single person in the room. Instead of having an unfocused gaze where you’re not really looking at anyone; mentally extend yourself to each individual by momentarily looking into their eyes so they feel you’re talking just to them.
You can do this even if there are hundreds of people in a ballroom by “quartering” the room and being sure to make eye contact with people in each corner of the room instead of sweeping the room with a robotic-like UZI approach or looking over everyone’s head with an empty gaze.
4. Pause and Punch:
Nervous speakers rush. Confident speakers deliberately pause before . . . and after . . . their most important points. Punching your most impressive points gives them an audio emphasis that helps them POP! out of everything that’s being said. Putting space around a particularly impressive credential or achievement (i.e., “sold to Microsoft,” “managed a 30 million dollar department,” “MBA from Harvard”) highlights it and gives listeners a chance to absorb and imprint it so they can remember it.
Jonathan Winters said, “I have a photographic memory; I just haven’t developed it yet.” People don’t have a photographic memory so it’s up to you to develop an easy-to-grasp pitch they like, want to listen to and can remember.
5. Eliminate Adversarial Words or Industry Jargon:
Review your slides and comments and remove the words “but,” “should,” “you’ll have to.” These words can make people feel ordered around, argued with or lectured to. Also, be sure to explain acronyms, industry jargon or technical terminology listeners may not be familiar with.
6. Tower, don’t Cower:
Your body posture says a lot about your confidence. Stand up right now and let your shoulders fall forward; put your feet close together and assume the “fig leaf” position. This “cower” stance makes you look and feel tentative and weak.
Now, pull your shoulders back, place your feet shoulder width apart and stand tall. This “tower” stance makes you feel and look more grounded and authoritative. People will conclude you know what you’re talking about and are a lot more likely to give you their respect because you look like a leader.
7. Command Attention and Respect From the Beginning:
Stride (don’t walk meekly . . . . stride confidently) to the center of the room and face the group so you are “open” to them. Pause for a moment and scan the entire room with a warm smile. Some self-conscious speakers start talking before they are “centered” and they never own the room. Some lock themselves behind the lectern to have a “barrier” between them and the group. Make a powerful, positive first impression by facing the group “head on” and by not starting until you have everyone’s attention.
If there are people behind you on a panel, stand to one side of the table so you don’t have your back to the panelists throughout the presentation. Keep your body facing the audience so you’re addressing and honoring the majority of the people in the room – and turn your head (not your whole body) to the panel occasionally to keep them enaged.
I’ll always remember a speaker who spent his entire 10 minutes talking directly to the panel (not even glancing at the rest of the room) because he thought the panelists were the judges. The judges were actually in the back of the room and they disconnected after 10 minutes of being ignored.
8. Move Strategically to Punctuate Your Points:
You don’t want to be rooted to one spot and you don’t want to pace. Repeated, non-purposeful motion is distracting. Determine in advance how you can move from “stage center” to “stage right” to get closer to that part of the audience and then to “stage left” to focus on that section of the audience.
Instead of gripping the lectern with both hands (which comes across as rigid or a desperate need to “hold onto something”) or clasping your hands together behind you or in front of you which lock you in to one stance – hold your hands like you’re holding a basketball so you can gesture freely and naturally.
9. Speak from Talking Points vs. Memorizing Your Speech:
Memorizing a speech or reading from a script disconnects you from the audience because you’re “in your head” repeating words you’re rehearsed. The audience might as well not even be there. The goal is to connect and communicate so compellingly, everyone is listening to and “getting” everything you say.
Instead of keeping notes in your hands, place them on the lectern so you can glance at them (or the tele-prompter or on-stage monitor) to remind yourself of key points without breaking your connection with the audience. Don’t talk to your slides – talk to your audience. Turn your back on the screen and keep your attention on the group so they’re keeping their attention on you.
10. Show and Tell with Props:
At the end of a long day, pitches start blending together and sounding alike. Visually reinforce your product by bringing a sample to the stage. Holding up an iPad or an iPhone while you talk about an app you’ve created helps us SEE what you’re SAYING. It makes your concept concrete and turns your idea into an image.
One client who created a software program that organized receipts/expenses brought her wallet to the stage and pulled out a dozen receipts from taxis, restaurants, hotels she’d collected in her trip to the NYC pitch forum. She then asked audience members if they had receipts scattered throughout their luggage they were probably going to lose, never report or never collect on. Everyone related to her message, remembered what she was offering, respected its market potential and wanted to talk with her afterwards. Compare that to a talk where she spoke solely about a “receipt aggregation system.”
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Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert, helps clients create clearn, compelling communications that win buy-in from target customers. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title and Tagline for Anything which has been endorsed by Jeffrey Gitomer and featured in NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC and BusinessWeek.com.
Did you find these tipson delivering a winning pitch useful? You’re welcome to forward them to others and share the wealth as long as you attribute them.
Want Sam Horn’s article on Top Ten Tips to Designing a Winning Pitch ?
(And yes, her article covers what to put on your power point slides).
Email us at Cheri@SamHorn.com and we’ll send it to you. And visit http://www.SamHorn.com for video clips on how to capture people’s favorable attention in the first 60 seconds by getting their eyebrows up.