What Makes The Perfect Pitch?

Read on to get a few pointers on how to pitch like Babe Ruth…

firstly, lets clarify what a ‘pitch’ is. A pitch is a verbal presentation of your business plan; in essence, you should be presenting to investors that you have a working idea, product, (realistic) future projections, (realistic) financials and of course you will need to have an intimate knowledge of your idea/business. Showing that you lack a depth of knowledge in what you are delivering to an audience/investor is the quickest way to ensure no one gets their cheque-book out.

Investors will want to ‘stress-test’ your business model, your pricing,  your future predictions, your actual product and of course they will play hard ball when it comes to the question of how much of their money you want. Be prepared and expect that you will be under the spotlight. Remember that this person is potentially handing over his/her money for your endeavour. I only hope you would be critical of someone/something if it was asking for your money with little information in return. Be transparent with your audience and honesty is truly the best policy.

Lastly, don’t wear jeans and t-shirt. You are not Mark Zuckerberg. At least not yet. Wear what is considered ‘professional’ in your field. If you are a Creative and pitching something wearable. HIRE A MODEL. Ever tried to pay attention to someone wearing the product? It is terrible and makes you look like a moron. Models are paid to stand around and look good. Spend the money and it will make a huge difference. So lets get down to brass tacks…

Understand that you are not the smartest person in the room. You are the expert when it comes to understanding your business and you THINK you are the expert at what your customer wants. The real lesson here is appreciate what you do know, accept that there is a lot that you don’t know and lastly, what you don’t know is what will kill you (unless you make strides to solve those knowledge gaps). To that end, if you don’t know something, hire someone or ask someone. If that isn’t your MO – surround yourself with people and friends that do know about the knowledge you lack. Just don’t try to pull the wool over your audiences eyes!

Fictional waffle is no contender against cold hard results. We all no someone who can talk a good game, but never seems to show the results of them actually going through with something. It’s pretty easy to spot and it does not lend itself to being a credible ‘go-getter’. The simple fix for this crippling ailment is EXECUTION. Go out there and just get results. Good or bad. Its all data you can use to add credibility and punch to your Pitch. What customer feedback to you have? How many sales have you made? What does your orders forecast look like for this year? Questions like that will de-rail someone who hasn’t done their homework or their hustling. If there is a way to test a part of your business and get some cold hard data, feedback, figures, financial etc etc. Whatever it is, try and capture it and record it. then you can deliver way more to your audience than just anecdotes and waffle.

Keep it short and concise. Just like this paragraph; control the urge to throw everything at the audience. Aim for an ‘elevator pitch’, two minutes or so is ample. You want to get across your big hitting points and demonstrate a water tight model. The ‘nice to know’ information and filler can be saved for the questions at the end. If your delivering a tight presentation that peaks interest. Trust me, there will be questions.

Do one thing perfectly, then repeat. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Which is true as it took centuries to become the Hegemony of that period and boast such an Empire. My other favourite ‘Rome’ related phrase is “It was like the last days of Rome in there”. My point – Your business won’t be huge overnight, it takes years to build momentum, size and market share. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Perfect one service and then once you have a core strength, expand. Rome didn’t wake up with an Empire, it built it. But Rome did see its empire fall down around its ears in the blink of an eye.

Not every investor is looking for a Unicorn. Understand ‘angel investors’ and high risk individuals might be throwing money at Silicon Valley start-ups and digital wearable developers, but 99% of investors want to see tangible products and results. Don’t try and excite and mesmerise investors with projections and valuations that are untrue or unattainable. Show them best case, worst case and the most likely course you see the business achieving. Back that with data and numbers (because you have been executing and hustling). Give them a warm sense of reassurance and a taste of potential if they invest in you and the business.

Learn frugality. This one is a difficult topic to dissect. People see frugal individuals as boring and miserable. Scrooges and misers. Here is my take on the matter: If you are asking someone for their money, do no then host lavish company outings and launch parties, Up your salary to an excessive amount. Don’t upgrade your car instantaneously and renovate/move home. An investor wants to see that you are maximising every penny and pound they give to you. Demonstrate that the company is on line and is fighting for its success.

So there you have it. Demonstrating all of these in your short and concise presentation/pitch should have you walking away with a handshake and hopefully an opportunity to take discussions to the next level. Don’t let the images of Shark Tank and Dragons Den deter you from getting the backing that your idea or business deserves.

“I have found that an effective elevator pitch is nine things: Concise, Clear, Compelling, Credible, Conceptual, Concrete, Consistent, Customised and Conversational.” – Chris O’Leary – American Author

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Becoming A Yes-Man

How Do You Avoid Becoming The Captain’s Parrot?

Everyone is familiar with the image of a Ship’s Captain with a Parrot on his shoulder. The Parrot echoes the Captain, squawking nonsense from the top deck of the ship. That is what I see when working with someone who is unable to think for themselves and just agrees with the companies ideas, policies, etc… They do not rock the boat. Which is fine in most situations, however it shows a lack of drive, imagination, knowledge and initiative.

We have all worked with or know of someone who always seems to take others opinions. Taking their information from the mainstream media without questioning its validity or bias.

Those who generally do not form their own opinions or question the nature of life’s different offerings tend to be easily misinformed, refuted and led. These are the people that you are working alongside and may even find them as your superiors from time to time. A scary thought right?

Something ‘Yes-Man’ don’t have, Read – Credibility – What is it? 

So how do you avoid becoming the Captain’s Parrot? At work for instance, just echoing company rhetoric and always taking the bosses word for it are two prime examples of parroting. A business practice might be unethical, maybe even bordering illegal, the captains parrot will not speak out against his master.

But someone who is informed and knowledgeable will speak out because they don’t just take what they are told as Gospel truth. The quickest and most sure-fire way of avoiding the title of ‘Yes-Man’ is to strive to be informed. From multiple sources. Never rely on a single source when it comes to forming opinions and ideas. Everyone can be guilty of this from time to time. ‘Gossip’ is by far the most dangerous medium for information. Inaccurate, twisted, subjective and nearly always intended to undermine who it pertains to.

I take great pride when someone informs me of gossip pertaining to myself. See it as a barometer of success. The more you achieve, the more people will want to bring you down or dash your efforts.

If your success has afforded you the luxury of having people work for you. Then congratulations. But before you go ahead and pat yourself on the back, look at your talent and take stock of who you have employed. Employing a ‘Yes-Man’ is just as dangerous as being one.

Don’t be the stick in the mud or the party pooper, but always seek to question things. That is how you demonstrate your value and communicate to others you are happy to follow the majority when required but if the moment requires it, you can stand up and inform your peers clearly and concisely on an alternative idea.

“I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job”. – Samuel Goldwyn – American Film Producer

 

I get by with a little help…

How to Help Yourself With Notes

What do you use to help you remember your lines when speaking? People use a whole raft of aids and techniques to help them get all the words out into the audience. While there are good and bad approaches to this. I only want to focus on the good ones. That way you won’t be tempted to pick up a bad technique.

Before we start, I advocate the use of notes and cues. I do not support your belief that you need the entire speech written out on A4 paper. Reading verbatim from a sheet during a speech is the most boring and painful experience an audience can endure. Write statistics down, key personalities and important nuggets of information. Do not write the rest of your speech out and then reel it off while hiding behind the papers.

Cue cards and crib cards are my favourite prompt. That is all they are after all, a small piece of paper you can hold in your palm that helps you stay on track and keeps your mind focused. Just write a simple line or word that tells you what part you are covering and it will guide you in what to say, ensuring you properly cover the subject. Additionally, you can write in pauses and breaks to ensure that you don’t race off through your prompts.

Do not write on your hand. Ever. Paper was invented several millennia ago, by the Egyptians. They didn’t see an advantage in using their body to log information. Neither should you.

If you do not wish to use crib/cue cards, perhaps logging the same information onto a piece of A4 paper and leaving it at the lectern is more your style? This way you can step out from behind the lectern, engage with your audience without that barrier and return to the lectern in order to take a moment and get the next prompt from your notes. I will always say that using A4 is the safest way to ensure you have enough room to write notes and prompts without squeezing them onto a small post-it note and then squinting to see your own writing. If you are very expressive with your hands I would suggest this system.

 

I have seen speakers stick their prompts onto the middle of the stage so they can simply look down and get their notes without having to look at anything. The audience will not be able to see your notes if you are on an elevated stage. But if you are delivering a presentation in your company conference room, this will make you look like a moron…

If you are a subject matter expert and have delivered the same or similar presentations before. You may not even want or need notes. Even without notes, if you bullet point or headline your speaking points on your presentation then you can elaborate on each point as you go and seamlessly speak while adding more value to your presentation with your stored knowledge and confident abilities. I prefer this method as you can really be flexible and tailor your brief to different situations. You NEED to know your topic though and have to have a depth of knowledge that others are respectful and somewhat envious of. This approach means you can field questions as they come, add or remove information if required and engage more with the audience. You can even test out new ideas or techniques and use the opportunity as a kind of live test range.

The less words you can use in order to prompt yourself, the better. The goal is to reach a standard whereby you can deliver a quality presentation regardless of content or subject. By using these supports you can alleviate mental burdens and focus on the audience. Having a short game plan in your vicinity will always give you that ability to reference your notes and keep your speaking on target.

 

 

 

The Audience and You

How Do You Close the Distance?

When you feel close to someone, you know them, trust them and can nearly always understand their point of view. Sadly, as a public speaker you don’t have the luxury of being able to develop such intimate links with all of your audience. So how do you maximise the time and opportunity in order to really leave a lasting impression on your audience?

Nowadays, it is becoming more and more common for business interactions and professional activities to be built on genuine and mutual grounds. This means that you need to know your opposite number like never before. Especially if you want to deal with them and hopefully begin a long term professional (and prosperous) relationship.

In speaking, you need to close this distance and build that rapport in a record amount of time. You don’t have to make an audience member your best friend by the end of your talk. But you want to have given enough, so that they feel compelled, interested and intrigued to reach out to you after you have left the stage.

You break these walls down, by using a combination of verbal and non verbal techniques. This list is by no means exhaustive, but you can see a theme and you can test out your own individual hallmarks.

  •  Your clothes should convey a smart, but approachable personality. Look credible and respectable without coming across like your a golden demi-god of your profession.
  • Introduce yourself straight away, state your reason for being on the stage but also don’t forget to say your first name, If you have a short version of your name use that.
  • Try and start your presentation with a story, granted not all situations are ideal. But a story give your an audience a journey they can take with you. Plus it makes things less boring!
  • Don’t stand behind props if you don’t have to. An open and close space between you and the audience builds trust and connection. Remember personal space though..
  • There are a plethora of language and writing devices you can use to spark the audience and make them think outside of the ordinary. Making your limited time much more memorable. (This will get it’s own Blog in the near future).
  • People understand contrast, so give them noticeable contrasts. show the before and after. don’t just tell someone the ‘after’ give them the barometer to see the difference and see the real results.
  • Welcome questions at the end. when acknowledging someone for their question, kindly ask their name. Then you can say ‘Thank you for your question Amanda, the greatest scientist in my opinion is Werner Von Braun.’ Incorporate the persons name and their question into the answer. It shows you are engaged and wanting a friendly exchange. It relaxes and encourages others, while really connecting with the audience. Play with this technique and find your fit.
  • If you are intending to stay after your talk, make sure you express this. People may be nervous, embarrassed or perhaps interested to ask you something but not in public. this opportunity is really a great way to network and offer more value as your time on stage may be limited.
  • Take contact details in the form of cards. Whether business or contact cards, they will give someone a physical token and reminder of your exchange.

I have put these in a kind of order of events that generally occurs when arriving at a venue for a speaking event or work related commitment. Sometimes refreshments and the ‘meet and greet’ take place before the talks. Be able to react to this and have yourself prepared for the stage as well as the networking opportunities.