Recently a valued client engaged us to facilitate a ‘Pitch Perfect’ workshop to help several members of their team refine and improve their pitch skills. It is always difficult to provide a critique on a person’s personal communication skills and style, and even harder to take the criticism – no matter how constructive! But this team did so with style and grace and so I thought I would share my findings and advice for how to make your own pitch ‘perfect’.
You can have the most compelling proposal or bid submitted, but then fall down when it comes to the presentation. It could be simply because you are thinking so much about the content and your own nerves, that you forget it’s all about your client. There are a few really important strategies that you need to put into place to make sure you’re hitting the goals as you stand there verbalising about how good you are. From the get-go, you must do everything right – from walking into the room, through to thanking them for their time as you leave.
Whether you are an old hand and have done a thousand presentations, or about to pitch for the first time, here are some ideas to help you to finesse your performance.
Most people find presenting difficult and staying calm and relaxed throughout your pitch easier said than done. One option is to start by concentrating on your breathing. If you can concentrate on relaxing, knowing that the presentation will be over soon, you will almost certainly present better. You can do this – and it is possible to enjoy yourself! Before you enter the room, slow down and make sure that you’re calm, and that you take a moment to pause for a breath during your presentation. Your pitch will be received far better if you come across as calm and measured, rather than breathlessly racing to the finish line.
make a good impression
As you walk into the room (even if you have to spend time setting up prior to the pitch), make sure you present yourself and introduce your colleagues. Sometimes you might feel like it’s appropriate to sit around the table, but it’s way more persuasive if you are standing up front and in control of the presentation – rather than discussing your pitch round-table style. It’s a presentation, right? So present and engage – it will demonstrate your expertise and command their attention. And enjoy yourself!
The beginning of your presentation is critical as you try to grab your audience’s attention and then hold it. They will give you the first few minutes to entertain them, before disinterest sets in and they switch off. Don’t waste this crucial moment on explaining who you are – engage them straight off. Try a story or anecdote which is extremely relevant to your pitch or an attention-grabbing image or video on a slide.
Identify what is important to the client
Show the client you understand their needs, and their pain. Explain how you can help them, and interact with them about their situation, their constraints and their timeframes. This will then guide your entire pitch, ensuring they feel heard and involved. Relate to them by bringing up their own challenges, facts and figures, and repurpose their questions back to them. Show them you are confident that you can deliver what they need.
Connect with your Audience
The best way to connect with your audience is to show them how much their business means to you. It’s hard to do this confidently when you’re nervous or anxious. Every great presenter will tell you that the most important way to connect with your audience is to let your passion for the subject shine through. Be honest with them about what you understand about their business, why this is important to you and why this presentation matters. Your excitement and enthusiasm will be obvious and your client will appreciate where you’re coming from.
Keeping it simple
What is the key message (or three key points) that you want your audience to take away? You should be able to communicate that key message easily, briefly and upfront. We recommend you practice an ‘elevator pitch’ – one that you can write on the back of a business card, or say in no more than 25 words. However you do it, the important thing is to keep your key message focused and stated upfront. If what you are planning to include doesn’t contribute to that message, leave it out.
Focus on your Audience
Build your presentation around what your audience is going to get out of it. As you prepare the slide deck, bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them. While you’re giving the presentation, stay focused on how they are responding – read and react accordingly. Make it easy for your client to relate, understand and interact.
Surprisingly, a large number of presenters forget to do this one very important act. You can easily build rapport with a smile and some direct eye contact, which helps the audience to connect with you and your topic. Smiling is also known to make you forget your nerves as you engage with an individual rather than a group. Make sure the lights are on so that both you and your slides are visible.
Remember the 10-20-30 Rule
Apple influencer Guy Kawasaki suggests that slideshows should contain no more than 10 slides; last no more than 20 minutes; and use no less than 30 point font. This will stop you from putting too much information on a slide, and save your audience from ‘Death by PowerPoint’. As a general rule, slides should be the ‘sideshow’ to your pitch, and your notes simply a guide to your message. Providing you use these 3 elements combined to make your point clearly and concisely, you will engage them and not bore or overload them with details. If you have more information you want them to take in, offer a handout during or after your presentation.
We are programmed to respond to positive stories. They help us to pay attention, and remember details. If you can use anecdotes in your presentation, your audience will engage more and remember key points. Treat your presentation like a story and think about what message you are trying to convey to your audience, and create a presentation that tells it.
Use your voice and your Body to tell your story
Around 75% of communication is non-verbal. This means that as well as your tone of voice, your body language is a critical element in getting your message across. Take note of your body language and avoid crossed arms, hands held behind your back or in your pockets, and pacing the stage. Make your gestures open and confident, and move naturally around the stage and among the audience too, if possible.
When you are presenting, you are offering the whole package – both you and your proposal. The more professionally and eloquently your offer comes across, the more likely that you will be successful.
For more information on how you can improve your presentation messaging, read How To Get Your Tender Pitch Right or call us at Aurora for specific advice on how to win more tenders: phone 07 32114299.