The Art of The Pitch: 3 Success Tips

Public Speaking & Presentation Masterclass V

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Dangerous pitching myths abound. Yet pitching done right, is flawless influencing, followed by decisive impact. And to achieve that, you'll have to be able to adjust whenever necessary.

The more seamless and subtle the delivery, the better.

Or as Ben Schippers put it: “Pitching is like dating. Being confident is key, but it also is your Achilles’ heel...if you try too hard, you’re going home empty-handed.” See How To Steal The Show after this Masterclass, if you missed it.

Guy Kawasaki is a fan I don't always agree with. And you'll understand why, in a moment. But on this, I do: “Pitching isn’t only for raising money—it’s for reaching agreement, and agreement can yield many good outcomes including sales, partnerships, and new hires.”

Moreover pitching, highly persuasive presentation or influential public speaking experience that wows, closes, worked for me, and I've seen work for others, is almost always based on 3 key assumptions and elements. All reinforced by both Tim Ferriss (further below) and this blog's feature Mitch Joel with Peter Coughter, —playing right now, if you have Flash:

They don't have time. Not even for 10 slides. So, assume they do, at your own peril.In my worst pitch to date involving a panel of hungry investors and stakeholders who literally ran towards our hotel's restaurant in fear it was about to close, I was mercilessly rushed.

It was chaotic.

Panelists were not completing their own questions and sentences as they interrupted me, and each other.

And, no. It didn't matter that they'd been sitting through other — I'm told — horrible pitches all morning. That, although I was scheduled at 10AM, I was finally called in after 2:30PM. What mattered, and matters, in retrospect, is:

I unnecessarily lost control of the presentation because I assumed for an organization seeking solutions they trusted I had, they had time. Not for 10, but my 5 slides. Double click to zoom.

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Everything mentioned above, especially the importance of knowing and articulating the competitive landscape relative to your pitch, is important. Even echoed by David S. Rose in this TED U Talk. But strategically, what matters more is understanding and perfecting the Art of the Pitch enough to know WHAT NOT to do WHEN.

Perfect ABC & AIDA down to a Science. Be able to sell. Anytime. On any terrain.

Why terrain? Short answer: The same reason the Chinese are excelling in Africa, business-wise, where American enterprises and entrepreneurs have failed.

Culturally, you may find yourself dealing with crude business stakeholders. I even remember sitting across the table with a prominent Chinese CEO who spat every now and then. But universally, people don't like being sold to. And importantly, it was irrelevant to why I was there with him in the first place. We were negotiating. And we needed his money.

This is why universally, the key is to know HOW to influence them.

Which is why the title of Masterclass IV (“Never Stick To The Pitch”) would appear to be at odds with Guy Kawasaki's advice.

Critically, what should be asked, emphasized and executed more if you're serious about winning, is: What influences THIS particular panel, person, or organization as opposed to the last one I/WE aced to get here?

DO that research well, beforehand! I promise you it pays dividends.

With that preparatory work naturally internalized, it doesn't matter whether you're stumped. Your answers can be seamlessly plucked from any of the slides (above). Like a Steve Jobs on a stage, not even needing slides.

And if you're a startup, SHOW or GIVE them what they want, whether they know it as prospective early adoptors/investors, or not — by surprising them with it — within 15 seconds of opening your pitch and let the idea or product sell itself. Why?

Because the “A” in AIDA is your meal ticket to success.

After all, you want their attention and ultimately, money and backing, don't you?

This is why in the scenario above, the story/approach shared in How To Steal The Show would have been more appropriate. Which is why as Jonathan Gebauer and seasoned marketers and salespeople will tell you: “The perfect pitch is different every day.”

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Pass the “So What” test. Win over both left and right brainers present by KO.

Many technologists the world over couldn't ace a presentation/pitch if their life depended on it. Here's a personal startup/co-founder example.

Even the great Elon Musk struggled to communicate effectively the first time he unveiled the Tesla Model X SUV concept. I tried. Never got through that video. Several months later however, he nailed it! And I saw great headlines in 2015 suggesting unanimous approval of his improved delivery.

So, like any skill, effective communication can be developed, with great effort. Which is we started this Masterclass series with Will Stephens in Cracking The Interestingness Code.

Apart from the importance of the emotional connection factor already repeatedly addressed, most investors, hiring managers and board level presentations and high stakes pitches are closed/won (over) simply because you're easy to understand.

That's why I love Guy Kawasaki's “little man” simplification of the McKinsianWhat's the So What?” question. Because it's true.

In fact, I was recently involved in a deal where the little man was literally a diminutive number cruncher one competitor approached me to crack a joke about. He started: “Did you also notice?” He'd nod off every now and then. Then as quickly as his head jerked up, he'd reflexively ask a “So what” question.

Now, “imagine there was a little man sitting on [your] shoulder. During presentations...the little man would whisper, “So what?” You should imagine this little man on your shoulder and listen to him because the significance of what you’re saying is not always self-evident, much less awe-inspiring. Every time you make a statement, imagine the little man asks his question.”

Leverage Tim Ferriss' insights and click the white dove below to continue your Masterclass

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