Posted on 4/14/2016 by Robin Scheu
Sooner or later, you will need to explain your business to someone else. It may seem easy – at least in your head. After all, you know what your business is about! But explaining it to someone else is a different matter. If you’re prepared, you won’t be taken by surprise and you’ll be able to tell your story both briefly and in such a way that the other person actually understands what you do. If you want to improve your pitch read on.
Recently, ACEDC co-sponsored a “Pitch Vermont Life” evening wherein the editorial board of Vermont Life Magazine heard pitches from 15 Addison County businesses. The board was looking for interesting stories to use in future editions of the magazine, which goes out to thousands of people across the country and internationally. It was a great opportunity to showcase many of the wonderful businesses and artists who live and work here.
We thought it would be helpful for the chosen businesses to practice before the big event, so we held several hours of pitch practice sessions. Presenters would make their 2-minute pitch with their slide deck (six slides only) to hone their skills and receive feedback. It proved to be more useful than any of us imagined.
If you do any research online about how to pitch your business (usually in 60 seconds or less), you will consistently find some variation of these four questions that must be answered:
- What do you do?
- What problem do you solve?
- How is your product or service unique?
- How can you help me? (Or, “Why should I care?”)
This is generally good advice. But what it fails to do is tell you about the delivery itself or strategies you need to employ when you are developing your presentation. After listening to many pitches from a wide variety of businesses I would like to offer four equally important tips for perfecting your pitch and getting the results you want.
1. Know your audience. The pitch you make to a group of potential funders is different from the editorial board of VT Life magazine. Funders want to know if your product works, if anyone will buy it, and how quickly they will get a return on their investment. A magazine that that features gorgeous pictures showcasing life and lifestyles in Vermont wants to hear how your product makes a difference, tugs at the heartstrings, or is otherwise magical. The people reading Vermont Life want your life – you have to show them why.
2. Focus your talk. There’s so much you can say about your business! Given the opportunity, you could probably talk about it for hours. But you only have 2 minutes. Or 60 seconds. Even though you find all the technical details fascinating and there’s a long, wonderful history behind your business, that isn’t what people want to hear in a short presentation. (See Tip #1.) Think about your presentation this way: What are the 1-2 messages you want your audience to leave with? Is it the date your company started or the fact that you make a widget that helps save lives?
3. The less said the better. Often when people know they only have 1-2 minutes to talk, they speak really fast, trying to get as many words in as possible in the allotted time. The result? Too much information that listeners don’t have time to absorb, if they can even understand everything you’ve said. A better approach is to say one or two sentences and then pause for several seconds before moving on, especially if you are showing a dramatic or beautiful slide at the same time. Which brings us to -
4. Let your slides speak for themselves. You’ve heard it before and it’s true: pitch decks and PowerPoint slides can put people to sleep if not done well. Your slides should enhance what you’re saying, not be a distraction. Use beautiful photos, charts, or infographics to tell your story as much as possible. Avoid at all costs text heavy slides that you read to your audience. (The pitfalls of PowerPoint may just be a future blog post!)
So the next time (or the first time) you’re invited to present your business, say ‘yes’ and consider these tips for a more perfect pitch. You just may end up with a presentation that wows your audience and leads to new business!