There’s no better feeling than walking out of a meeting knowing you’ve captivated someone’s attention and have persuaded them towards your cause. So, how do we get here? What are the best techniques for pitching?
Like many other skills, the ability to deliver an engaging pitch comes with practice and patience. Rarely are people equipped with this skill with no effort. Most of us have to prepare and practice to feel confident delivering a pitch (or at least to look confident). Thankfully, there are techniques we can utilise to feel ready, look ready, and present engagingly.
Developing a convincing pitch involves three stages:
Preparation, practice and delivery.
Utilising each stage can ensure that you feel calm and ready to showcase your work. Focusing on marketers specifically, it’s crucial to make your pitch as concise and logical as possible. Business owners don’t have all the time in the world, so if they’re meeting with you to hear about your services, you want to lay down the most important facts and the strongest evidence, and you want to do it fast.
Some General Tips
First Impressions are Crucial
How long do you think it takes to make a first impression? A minute? 10 seconds? 1 second? Well, think even less than that. Before we’ve even had a chance to actually mess up, we’ve already been sized up by our potential client. Research suggests it takes one-tenth of a second to make an impression, so no pressure, right? Even more unnerving is the fact that these impressions don’t really budge, even after a more substantial meeting. Princeton psychologists believe that once these impressions are made, longer exposure doesn’t seem to alter them. Yep, no pressure at all.
There are things you can do, however, to ensure a good (or better) impression is made, and the first one is super easy: smile! Smiling makes us look more approachable and seem more trustworthy. Appropriate dress and grooming can also do wonders. As impressions are formed from judgements of appearance, it makes sense that this is where you should focus your efforts. Tidy and well-styled clothing and a maintained hairstyle can make you look more professional, making others want to work with you. So, we’re officially giving you an excuse to shop! Go on, it’s for work.
Make it Snappy
A short pitch is a good pitch. After all, we’ve all been guilty of zoning out during speeches, even at the best of times. The average adult’s attention span, as proposed by researchers, ranges from 5 to 20 minutes. With many distractions vying for our attention – the internet, technology, ads, and so on – it seems our attention is only getting shorter. This means it’s more important than ever to understand your audience and the key messages you need to communicate.
Always Save Resources
This one probably goes without saying, but in the world of marketing, saving any resources you create can help you get out of a pickle later – particularly if you need to craft a pitch ASAP! Use your initial presentation as a template and chop and change as you go. Of course, always remember to tailor the pitch to each client’s different needs and to double-check names labelled. We’ve all had that unfortunate situation where we’ve used an email template and have forgotten to add or change names – this is a bit more awkward in a pitch. After all, you need to assure your client that you’re focused on them.
The Power of Storytelling
Storytelling is the process of using fact and narrative to communicate an idea. As human beings, we love a good story, and we’ve loved stories for many thousands of years. In fact, the oldest piece of literature in existence, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written over four thousand years ago. Increasingly, this art form is being applied to marketing campaigns. The emotional appeal of stories draws us in and helps us connect more with a brand’s values. So, why wouldn’t you apply this to your pitch? Frame your pitch like a story and take your audience through a journey. Tell your client where they are, where they want to be, and how they can get there. Three acts, sounds like a story, right?
Now on to the nitty-gritty; what it takes to nail the perfect pitch. Let’s start with the first, and undoubtedly, the most important stage: preparation.
This is the most important step. The best strategy is to over-prepare. Try to foresee what your client might ask or want to know. Prepare for the questions that you don’t want to hear. Have evidence and examples to back up every claim. Appear faultless.
Know your Audience
On top of creating a portfolio of research for your client, it is important to gather information about your client. What are their values? What is their business’ philosophy? Review your client’s socials and website to develop an understanding of their brand, image, and core principles. Also, conduct research on their products and services to get ahead of the game.
Make a Presentation
A presentation helps keep your audience engaged. Make sure your presentation isn’t too text-heavy. There’s no point including paragraphs – it’s unlikely your client will read these. Use images, graphics, and video when you can to break up your presentation and provide visual stimulation.
Dress to Impress
It’s important to plan everything down to your clothing. A well-styled, professional outfit will make you feel more confident and in control. It will also help you come across more sophisticated. Visualise how you want to appear while pitching to your audience, then make that vision a reality.
Do a Run-Through
It’s definitely a good idea to practice delivering your entire pitch, including the presentation, to ensure every aspect is running seamlessly. Of course, you might want to do this at home while you’re comfortable or in front of a mentor who can give you advice.
Know your Key Points
Any successful pitcher will know that there’s no point trying to memorise a whole pitch. Trying to memorise speech blocks your ability to adapt and improvise when needed. Instead, you need to understand your key points thoroughly. Ultimately, what is it that you want your client to know by the end?
This is pretty self-explanatory but needs to be said. Getting a good rest means your mind is as sharp as possible for the pitch and ready to react when questioned. So, set a bedtime alarm and get a good night’s sleep. You’ll thank yourself the next day.
Breath and Voice
Ok, we know you’re not auditioning for The Voice, but breathing and voice techniques are still really important. Your voice can be a dead give away of how nervous you are, especially if you’re running out of breath while talking. To ensure against this, try to breathe deep into your lungs as you expand your abdomen outwards. This means your diaphragm has pulled in as much air into your lungs as it can. This also means you’ll be able to speak with a powerful and loud voice.
Take breaks in between speech and take time to gather yourself if you need to. There’s no need to rush. Sometimes we feel like we need to talk fast to keep an audience engaged, but this isn’t true. Try to vary the rhythm and pace of your speech for ultimate engagement.
Body Language and Hand Gestures
An upright posture exudes confidence and professionalism. Some people prefer to use various techniques to keep themselves from slouching. Some imagine they have strings attached to their head and shoulders which are being pulled up, like a puppet; others like to imagine they have a big, heavy backpack pulling their shoulders back. Whatever your technique may be, make sure you keep it up.
As for your hands – use them. People who use hand gestures are more effective communicators. In fact, in an analysis of TED talks, speakers who used hand gestures more frequently were more popular than those who rarely used them. When resting your hands casually, think about placement. The ‘crossed hands over the body’ stance might not look as comfortable as you think.
As with any other business transaction, it’s important to follow up with your prospective client. Don’t feel defeated if you don’t get a yes straight away; building rapport with a business or client is just as important. Don’t forget to connect on Linkedin and keep in contact every now and then. Lastly, you should also ask for feedback, if appropriate. Constructive criticism is essential for growth and development, particularly when pitching marketing campaigns.
That being said, if you get a big YES, then congratulations in advance. Remember to keep these tips in mind whenever you need a little refresher on pitching. Even experts in the field need a little reminder sometimes.