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perfect pitching

Perfect Pitching: My 7 Top Tips

Perfect pitching requires bringing together a lot of elements. It is more than just a presentation – but is never just about the hard sell. We coach people and teams to give great pitches and there are a few things we always look out for.

1. Perfect Pitching Starts with Questions

To do a great pitch you have to squarely meet all the needs and desires of the buyer. What exactly do they need? What are their concerns or reservations? What do they want to hear? You will never do a good job if you just roll out the last pitch you did with a few updates. Carry out a thorough analysis of the potential client first and ask questions of them in whatever way you can.

2. Introductions

Keep introductions short and sweet. They can quickly become boring, especially if you have a team of people on the pitch. If you provide written biographies in the handout you can just cherry pick a few key points. If you can make the introduction interesting and fun that is absolutely worth doing – but don’t labour it.

3. The Creds

It is always important to have a short section in a pitch that explains your credentials. However, this is another area that can quickly become very dull. Consider leaving the credentials to the end of the pitch – after you have explained what you can do for this particular client. If you fear they won’t listen until they’ve seen the creds, try again to do it succinctly. Just because it is succinct doesn’t mean you can’t use the odd interesting, unusual or, if appropriate, gossipy bit of information about one of two of your previous projects. You are looking to pique interest. If it prompts a follow-up question, you are doing well.

4. Keep the Slides Clean

Too much information on the slide is a classic problem. We see it all the time. The font gets smaller and the client is faced with prose rather than summary. Clients often say: ‘we have to do it like this because we print out the slides as the handout’. Such an approach will ensure your pitch or presentation is suboptimal. If you put the detail in presenter’s notes, you can print out a version that includes the slide and the presenter notes together. That way, the client is left with all the information but hopefully, during the pitch, they are concentrating on you and not the small print.

5. Don’t Read the Slides

This is related to the point above but is so important it is worth underlining. If you include a lot of text on the slide you will be faced with the dilemma: do I read out the slide or assume they will read it while I am talking. Neither option is good and definitely sitting watching someone read their slides is never going to make a client love you. Instead, think of your pitch as a performance (not a read through) and remember you are required to entertain.

perfect pitching

It’s all about connection

6. Rapport is King

People buy people – or teams. Selling often – even usually – hinges on personal relationships. Whilst you will have important information to deliver, the whole point of inviting people to pitch is so that the buyer can make a personal assessment of the team. Although the presentation is the vehicle, the key focus should be to create rapport or opportunities for rapport. Lindsay Williams (MD of The Media Coach) has urged me to read Chris Voss ‘Never Split the Difference’. She points out that Voss urges negotiators to watch the reactions of the other team. If someone reacts facially or physically to a piece of information find a way to check what the reaction means. Questions should be open – don’t assume you have read it right. But asking ‘have you come across that before?’ or even ‘I am thinking you perhaps disagree with that?’ allows the buyer to connect with you and is likely to give you useful information.

7. Hold Back the Last Slide

In business life, there is nearly always a Q & A after a pitch. That is a good thing and is often when some real work is done. However, it presents a danger. If you have been discussing some relatively minor and perhaps sticky point for a few minutes and then come to the end of your allotted time, the buyers are left with that subject in their minds. I suggest you take a few seconds to say ‘ well we have come to the end of our time but can I just leave you with our key points…’ and put up the last slide, a short succinct summary of what you are offering. That way you leave your message in their minds.

The Media Coach team can help you and your team with their pitch whether that is online or face to face. If you think your pitch performance is not yet perfect, why not give us a call? +44 (0)20 7099 2212 or drop us an email enquiries@themediacoach.co.uk.

Featured Image Credit, Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash (Licensed under a CC0 1.0 licence)

presentation training

A Minute With The Media Coach: Presentation Training

We are continuing our summer holiday mode and instead of our usual blog offer a short video, number three in our series ‘A Minute With The Media Coach’. This week fellow trainer, Eric Dixon and I discuss some of the common mistakes we see during presentation training sessions and how to avoid them.

start with the end in mind

Plan Your Communications: Start with the End in Mind

Starting with the end in mind is such a useful way of thinking. I am aware it does not only apply to media interviews or presentations but is widely useful in everything from preparing a roast dinner to writing a business plan. So crucial is this idea that it is one of the seven habits of highly successful people identified by author Stephen Covey. 

start with the end in mind

Planning your communications: start with the end in mind

However, as a media and presentation trainer, I can tell you that most people do not apply this simple way of being more effective when it comes to planning their communications. In fact, most people don’t plan their communications, period.  The reasons they give are many and varied:

  • Too busy.
  • Talking or communicating is already a professional skill (so detailed prep for an interview or for a presentation is not necessary).
  • It is boring.
  • It’s not about me, it’s about the subject.
  • I am not clear what if anything I want the audience to think or do.

I could go on.

5 minutes strategic thought saves hours of preparation

start with the end in mind

Of course, the reality is 5 minutes serious thought will save hours of preparation and will deliver a better result.

So, if preparing for a media interview it is worth asking yourself these questions:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Which bit of that audience matters to me? If you are doing national media it is clear that most people watching, or reading will have only a passing interest in the subject but the audience will include a few hundred key influencers, potential clients, important regulators etc. Knowing broadly who these people are and what you want to say to them is helpful.
  • Is there anything I want people to do as a result of this interview: click a link, pick up the phone or make a purchase for example?
  • So crucially – what headline or main idea do I want to see in the finished piece – or if television or radio, what do I want the audience to remember?

Once you have this clear in your mind the preparation of ‘messages’ or if you prefer your argument will be much quicker.

For a presentation, it is a similar process:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do I want them to remember from the presentation?
  • Is there anything I want them to do as a result of the presentation?

Advice to a younger me

If I could meet my younger self I would have a number of pearls of wisdom to pass on – top of the list would be to stop wearing heels to walk in. (Apparently crushed toes 20 years ago mean I now have misplaced toes so my feet find it difficult to keep me upright.)

But also high on the list would be to ‘start with the end in mind’ for all significant conversations. Even more usefully, I would advocate the practice of not only preparing for important conversations but preparing for unimportant ones. Once they have taken place I would suggest that my former self got into the habit of reviewing her ability to continue the conversation with the end in mind. Preparation can easily go out of the window in the intensity of the moment unless you have trained yourself. Training is easy to do because every conversation with the butcher, a neighbour or your stroppy teenager provides good opportunities for practise.

The guy that made me take this simple mantra – start with the end in mind – from a vague idea to a solid practice, was a UN negotiator I met in Kampala. I have forgotten his name, but I vividly remember his stories of negotiating with rebel leaders who had committed atrocities, in various parts of the continent. He had trained himself out of having any emotional reaction to the history of those he was dealing with and instead stayed completely focussed on his strategic aim, knowing the lives of innocent people (sometimes hostages, sometimes children) depended on it.

Few of my clients have such critical communication challenges, but we could all learn from his ability to keep his target in mind.

Here are other blogs we have written on related subjects

Preparing for a Media Interview: 5 key steps

5 Ways to improve that presentation

Developing Messages: Are you guilty of navel gazing?

The Media Coach is a group of working and ex-journalists who provide media and presentation training and message building for a wide variety of organisations. If you think we can help your team give us a call on +44 (0)20 7099 2212.

Photos used under creative commons licence.

 

great science presentations

Great science presentations: TED Talk case study

Great science presentations are something of a rarity. As an academic scientist and a media and presentation trainer I am caught between two worlds. I know science has to be credible and sourced and that detail can be necessary but I have also sat through way too many fascinating subjects made dull by a bad presentation. So here are some tips for science presentations to non-specialist audiences.

Great science presentations: a great source of best practice

To help illustrate what works, we’ve found a recent TED Talk that is based on real science but has been ‘moulded’ to fit the TED Talk formula. If you don’t know TED Talks then you are in for a treat. It is an impressive library of 13-15 minute presentations with the tag line ‘Ideas worth spreading’.  For those of us who often have to present to audiences of varying levels of scientific knowledge TED Talks provide a huge resource that illustrates best practice.

Great science presentations: case study

great science presentations

Can you really tell if children are lying?

The talk I have picked to illustrate my tips for science presentations is this one by researcher Kang Lee. It’s called ‘Can you really tell if a kid is lying?’ – which is always going to pull in a bigger audience than a title like “Novel applications of transdermal optical imaging” – which is what many academics would have been tempted to title this talk. Watch it here and then see if you agree with me about what works.

 

  • Lee starts with a personal story. Professional communicators are often reluctant to talk too much about themselves, but a short personal anecdote will engage your audience from the outset.
  • He speaks at a good pace. Many people rush their presentations. This may be to do with nerves but it may also be a fear of being boring. Lee has a strong accent which can be an obstacle to comprehension, but his careful pacing ensures the audience has time to process what he is saying.
  • The slides are very simple – little data and picture led. This is not always possible in scientific talks and you will likely need to share some detailed data but if you mix this with some pictures and anecdotes it makes your talk more engaging. When Lee does use data it is very simply presented with minimum information on the slide. Again most scientific presentations need more, and in particular need ‘sourcing’ but it is good to keep it as simple as possible.
  • Lee has kept his own appearance simple so there is nothing to distract from his presentation.
  • Another professional presenters’ trick is to ensure the data is revealed to follow the narrative, rather than all arriving at once and then being dissected by the speaker.
  • Lee asks his audience questions but not ones that expose or challenge. Asking a question that you know the answer to and the audience has little chance of getting correct is not a good way to build empathy. But asking for a ‘show of hands’ to gauge life experience is a good way to keep the audience interested.
  • A bit of humour helps keep people engaged. Humour is difficult especially when addressing multicultural audiences. Lee uses the well known fairy tale (or Disney Film) Pinocchio and his humour is gentle and unchallenging.

Great science presentations: make it relevant

  • Lee also works hard to make ‘transdermal optical imaging’ relevant to the audience. He says, for example, they might in the future use it when they Skype their parents to check if they are being truthful about their health, or when they want to reveal that a politician is lying. Making science relevant is good but I personally found some of Lee’s examples a bit ‘Big Brother’ and unsettling and would have chosen different ones myself.
  • A trick he didn’t use but could have done, was to tap into a more sci-fi reference. Transdermal optical imaging is very much like the Voight-Kampff Test used in the movie “Bladerunner”. This would have been another way to make the subject accessible to a general audience.

  • Lee in several places makes use of the ‘power of three’. This is a technique whose effectiveness was noted by Aristotle in his work Rhetoric written in the fourth century BC.

Great science presentations: keep it short

  • Finally, Lee doesn’t go on too long. At 13 minutes 30 seconds, his presentation is actually considerably shorter than allowed by the TED talk format, which demands that presentations be no longer than 18 minutes – “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention”.  While you may well be allotted a longer time-slot, remember that people rarely complain that a presentation was too short – especially if previous speakers have over-run.

At the Media Coach we help people make their presentations and interviews more entertaining and interesting by using these ‘tips’ and many others. But the key take-away is:  just because a subject is technical doesn’t mean it has to be dull.