There are two parts to the pitching process when it comes to startups and pretty much selling anything. The Science and the Art. The first piece of advice I’d give to anyone learning how to pitch is learn the functional elements first – the Science. The formats, the basics, the techniques which give you a construct to work around. We’ve got a bunch of resources around that here at Pollenizer. The two simplest, cleanest and most useful are the Universal and Gaddie pitch. Which can both be found here. Learn these first, and then you’re in good shape to start to go for the high ground in pitching – the Art.
Once we master that, there are what I call social hacks for pitching with the best of them. This is when we use the emotional side of being human to appeal to an audience. In this sense it becomes a performance art. And the good news is that anyone who dares to try can learn the Art of Pitching.
So here are my Top 6 Social Hacks for pitching:
1. They buy you
I’m sure you’ve heard it, but I bet your don’t really believe it. I can’t count the number of investors who’ve told me this simple truth: They’d rather invest in an A grade team with a B grade product, than a B grade team with an A grade product. But think of this – it’s not that hard to change products, but it’s almost impossible for people to change who they are. The people watching the pitch are buying your effort, enthusiasm, energy and the belief you have in yourself and what you can deliver. Sure, this all sounds too Tony Robbins to be true, but it is. They buy you first. They buy what you can do and evidence that you can get it done. Sell yourself, unashamedly. If you can’t sell yourself, how will you ever sell a new startup in the market?
2. They hear what they want to hear
Here’s how people operate in life generally when it comes to human interaction. People make quick and early decisions on how you fit into their world. Then they look for evidence, reasons and clues to confirm their pre-conceived perception. In this sense they decide a great deal about you by what they’ve already seen and heard before you pitch. So then you need to think a lot about body language, they way you look and the conversations and interactions you have before the pitch. Interactions both virtually and physically. Yes, you can pitch before the pitching process, this is when you can hack the perceptions by being personable, and vibrant or considered and intelligent and having track record. This is why ex founders have no trouble raising capital – it’s because people believe their perception that 1 success equals a second success – which may and may not be true.
3. Visuals and words
We all know there should be a minimum of words on the slide. We know that when people are reading, that they are not listening. So here’s the rule for top level pitching. Slides have pictures – person delivers words. This is the combination of champions. Go back and have a look at any of Steve Jobs apple keynote speeches and you’ll see the power of this method. It also allows the people in the audience to use their imagination with the pictures. They go on a sensory journey of what they want to believe. But it also ensures your command their auditory attention.
4. Take advantage of the monopoly of attention
We all know the power of any business which has managed to create a monopoly. Well guess what? When you are presenting you have the opportunity to have a monopoly on people’s attention. It’s a powerful thing indeed. But it is only powerful when we don’t waste it. And the worst way to waste it is by distracting the audience with bad slides. Oh, and as a reminder in case you still haven’t got it yet, every word on your slide makes it a little bit worse.
5. Who to learn from – stand up comedians
We can pick up great social hacks for pitching just as soon as we start paying attention. Whenever we hear a good presenter in action, we should take note of their techniques. What we then do is take the bits we like and implement those that suit our style. In life every person is the aggregation of what they’ve learned from those around them, from those we admire – and pitching is one such thing. Also get in the habit of watching the best pitchers of all – stand up comedians. You’ll learn more about pitching from them than any business person ever because they are the worlds best public speakers. Just put your business brain on while you review their techniques. Also, you’ll see from the great variety of stand up comedians that any personality style can work. Everything from quiet and shy, to jumping bean to dead pan. It’s about developing a presentation style which suits your true persona.
6. Practice in conversations
Private speaking is that same as public speaking. We should remember how good we are at it when we talk to our family, or friends and anyone we are comfortable with. We pitch our ideas all day long with these people, from which café to go to, to what movie to see. We just need to transition this existing behaviour we all have into the new environment. It is possible. Practice pitching subtly in day to day interactions. This will give you an unfair advantage in startups and life.
But most of all what we need to be is true to ourselves. In the end humans are very perceptive, we have sensors for the truth. What this means is that the people hearing our pitch believe what we believe.