The term “pitch” may invoke images of a one-way sales call given over the phone, as mentioned by Art Sobczak in Forbes. That is by no means what I am referring to in this context. I’m talking about interactive, gut-wrenching and straightforward public speaking. That’s right, arguably the #1 phobia in the world. While most of us don’t get the chance to speak publicly on a regular basis, it is a remarkable ability that can have a profound impact on your audience. Whether you’re asked to give a presentation at work or asking for a million dollars in venture capital, the following advice is universal and can be applied in various speaking engagements.
Wait, what? Okay, well don’t over-prepare. Yes, there is such a thing. Or should I say don’t prepare in a way that will not make you seem more polished in the actual pitch. I have prepared in a misdirected way myself for a speaking engagement which inevitably led to a complete and utter catastrophe. So heed my warning:
You will never deliver an excellent speech by memorizing every word you are going to say. Does the President of the United States memorize every speech he delivers to the Free World? Of course not, he uses a teleprompter. There are circumstances when the memorization of specific facts and phrases is necessary. Still, one could argue any great speech is 20% script, 80% delivery. With this in mind:
Have an Outline
Having a clear and concise outline of the topics for discussion helps my brain. I am able to conceptualize the entire presentation – soup to nuts – and how I personally want to deliver each part. This does not take a prolonged amount of time. Include the broadest topics in the main headings and use sub-headings for key talking points. You can then elaborate on each topic with unique insight and off-hand accounts of personal experiences. That brings me to my next point:
Injecting personal stories into a speech is a great way to make an impact. They’re also a great way to “cheat” in public speaking.
Any blog writer or social media specialist today will tell you – generating unique new content is tough. The same is true in the public speaking arena. Therefore, telling a personal story you know well in a speaking engagement allows you to “go on autopilot” and simply recount a story that you have likely told amongst friends and colleagues for years.
Everyone has a story. First identify the concept or idea you are trying to convey in your speech. Once you have clearly identified this, think back on prior experiences that can illustrate this idea – if not directly at least indirectly, then you can connect the dots. People also love stories, it’s a fact.
Instead of Memorizing, Say and Do
Excluding impromptu scenarios, the best way to get ready for a pitch is to say it out loud preferably with someone who will give honest and constructive criticism. If you do not have this luxury, say it to yourself. Each time you give a speech it will be different, so say it until you’re happy with the delivery – whether that’s twice or over a dozen times. With practice, ultimately there comes a point of diminishing returns; You just have to conceptualize main points wing it on the details. Speaking in public in front of a live audience produces an adrenaline reaction in the body which cannot be reproduced fictitiously. Skilled professionals use this to their advantage. Doing the real thing, in front of an audience builds self-efficacy. Also, groups like Toastmasters are an invaluable way to get real exposure in front of a crowd that knows public speaking well.
Key Points and Recap
- Don’t memorize every word
- Have an outline to help you conceptualize flow and timing
- Tell Stories – It’s a win/win for you and the audience
- Say and Do. You affect your subconscious mind by verbal repetition
If you enjoyed this article or have additional suggestions on how to kill it giving a pitch I’d love to hear your comments.