Like any aspect of public speaking, selling an idea or pitching for new business always begins with preparation. It’s something that anyone ignores at their peril. Time and energy in preparation are absolutely necessary in any pitch scenario. And there’s something else that’s key and it’s this: what precisely are you selling, for what audience and why? Without knowing the precise answers to these questions, your pitch won’t work. And, if you think about it, why should it?
In order to start the pitch process, you must research, plan and prepare the content. The research and preparation stage of a winning pitch presentation is important for many reasons – to ensure that your messages are credible, to increase the confidence of everyone participating and to enable those pitching to gel as a team so that the potential client sees real cohesion. Bear in mind it’s likely that the people in the room expect that you and your colleagues will be part of the delivery team.
You also need empathy, that is a focus on the needs of the immediate audience to whom you’re presenting. They must have a pain point, and that’s what you’re addressing. You need to know as much as possible about their needs. Not easy, but critical. Can you imagine what it’s like having to sit through half a dozen presentations that all follow the same structure and content? It’s dull. It shouldn’t be, but it often is. So, the first job in preparing for a pitch presentation is to put yourself in the shoes of the immediate audience. Think about what the people to whom you’re presenting will want to see and hear – not just what you want to say and show. And speaking of audiences, whatever you say and show will count for nothing unless you deeply understand what you’re selling.
So, research is important and not to be ignored. Think beyond the brief. Understand the bigger picture. Extend the research into the needs and values of the client organisation; its history, its other work, its business reputation and other business relationships. The more information you gather, the more likely you’ll be able to identify additional value points and innovative ideas and to tailor the material more closely to the needs, style and language of the potential client.
Also, focus. This may be an obvious instruction, but many pitches fail because they meander and try and cover far too much erroneous information. Obviously in a pitch (whether for new business, a business update or in an interview), you will draw on the material in the original brief and in whatever documentation you have been asked to submit prior to your presentation. Ideally, your documentation, tender or pitch document will have made your compelling value proposition crystal clear so that the client/audience is in no doubt what unique blend of attributes and benefits you will deliver.
There will be a heart to your presentation. What’s heart got to do with it? Well, it’s the part that has the main ingredient of your powerful ‘sell’. But the heart is likely to be short – perhaps only 10 to 15 minutes of your allotted time (don’t forget you’ll need as much time as possible to pose and answer questions and interact with the client/audience). So less is more. For the heart, identify no more than three key points. And each key point should be memorable and therefore powerful. Remember, you may think that everything you’ve ever done is riveting but, if it’s not highly relevant to the pitch’s objectives, then you’re wasting effort as well as everyone’s time.
In the second of these articles we’ll explore the structure of a pitch.
Is your pitching ability holding you back from selling your products or attracting funding for your business? In the course of just one day, Elaine Powell can help you to deliver a powerful pitch for any context.