In his 2012 best-selling book, The Art of the Pitch, marketing legend, Peter Coughter shared the astute business secret: “Being competitive wasn’t enough. We had to be compelling.”
Compelling: To evoke interest, attention or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.
Easier said than done, we’re sure you’d agree. But in an age where almost everything is about presentation, being compelling is a skill we all want to master.
It’s widely known that great presenters tell stories, and we’re all programmed to love hearing them. But no one likes riddlesome, long-winded ones; we enjoy stories that command our attention constantly – with a clear structure, notable takeaways and memorable moments.
And no matter your audience, there’s a key thing to note: us humans are naturally self-interested beings, so what about focusing your pitch on ‘them’, not ‘you’? Lose the lengthy autobiography and try going straight to tapping into people’s pain points or curiosities instead. After all, it’s really about selling the idea of the problem you can solve, not just the product you’re pushing.
Time is money and waffle is painful, so don’t be afraid to be ruthless and remove anything superfluous. The same goes for style – no-one wants to listen to someone who sounds like an over-the-top gameshow host or children’s TV presenter. Find your own voice, work it and stay true to it – attempting to imitate someone else’s presenting style can be smelt from a mile off.
The key is a super solid level of familiarity because the better you know your stuff, the smoother you’ll be able communicate it. Knowing is different to simply memorising though: focus less on remembering every exact word of the content and more on the passion and authenticity of the delivery. As Peter Coughter also said: “The appearance of spontaneity is often the product of preparation.”
Whether you’re pitching your business, your idea, your skills or yourself, striking the right balance between rational (demonstrating your thoughtfulness or how your idea is actually viable) vs. emotional (finding something your audience will connect with) and quiet confidence vs. over-confidence is no easy task, so we’ve called upon an expert to share his know-how on what makes a pitch stick.
Ronan Healy, business owner, management consultant and entrepreneurship lecturer at Macleay College has witnessed many a good and bad pitch in his extensive career in business development. He also assists Macleay business students during their 12-week program develop their business ideas to effectively pitch potential investors at Enterprise Project Day each trimester, so it’s certainly worth taking note of his do’s and don’ts. Here are his thoughts on…
What makes a great pitch:
Any pitch comprises of content and delivery but a great pitch delivers on both. Whilst your ability to deliver in a clear, concise, and compelling manner is important, this will not compensate for a pitch with poor content.
By content I mean that you can highlight that a problem worth solving actually exists (and by ‘worth’, I mean there would be customers who are willing to pay it), have chosen the optimal solution (which you have tested and validated in the market) and have a clear value proposition (one that makes you different from competitors).
A poorly delivered pitch with strong content has a far greater chance of success than a pitch lacking in such substance.
The biggest hurdle for first-time pitchers:
I think many people fail to truly understand how they should be pitching their value proposition. Entrepreneurs should be pitching how their product benefits their customer, rather than the ‘amazing’ features of their product. Entrepreneurs often get too lost in their own self-importance, and fail to truly empathise with their customer.
How to overcome that hurdle:
From a pitch perspective, just ensure you’re talking more about your customer’s problem and how your product benefits them, than you are about your company’s product or service. If you truly want to embed empathy and customer centricity into every element of your business then fall in love with Design Thinking as we in Macleay have.
Dealing with rejection and channeling it into your next pitch session:
Persistence is pitching’s best friend so always take any feedback on board for the future – it’s not criticism!
Don’t be afraid to start over. If a pitch isn’t working, blank canvas it with no preconceptions and see if you approach it differently. Like most creative work, it’s likely to require a bit of distance and alternative perspective
What to actually bring to your meeting:
The really obvious things are laptop, product samples, flip-charts, presentation clicker etc. but I would say from a physiological and psychological perspective you should be rested, hydrated and centered. Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress explains how you can reframe stress to be a positive, so that rapidly beating heart of yours is actually your body getting you ready to perform so that you ‘Wow’.
Read more about Ronan and his experience at Macleay College here.