The stakes are often extremely high when making a pitch. I know what it feels like for one’s entire future to rest on the next hour’s meeting. And whether it’s to get the job of a lifetime, secure financial backing, or to win a contract, it’s always you that’s up for sale. So to win that deal, what kind of ‘you’ should you be?
BE A STORYTELLER
“When it comes to asking for funding, slick business plans put me off,” warns Rebecca Lipon, director of Silicon Valley’s annual Women 2.0 Pitch competition. “Instead, we want a good story about real customer needs and the attempt to address them.” So make sure you are ready, she says. “If a company can’t recount how they’ve begun to deliver on a solution, they aren’t ready to pitch for funding.”
Do your homework on the people you’re meeting, and update and tailor your presentation every single time you pitch it. “I want to know why someone’s pitching to me, specifically,” says top literary agent Rowan Lawton of Peters Fraser & Dunlop. “What is it about my client list and my agency’s track record that makes this proposal right for us?”
Venture capitalist David S Rose wants to know why you’re worthy of his money: Have you done this before/do you know the market/are you sticking to the truth? And remember that sloppiness comes top of everyone’s ‘no’ list: figures should be consistent, your slides triple checked, and names correct. Watch Rose’s legendary talk on pitching to VCs at ted.com.
Rebecca Lipon hates gimmicks – “Please, no frisbee with a logo on it” – because she’s seen too many bad ones. A great product demo always wins her over. I agree. In my experience, a personal touch breaks the ice and keeps you top of mind. I always take a gift, such as a personalised print from the site, to important meetings – relevant because clever gifting is our business – and the response is invariably a delighted, “Oh yes, bribery works!”
So should you talk from a script or off the cuff? There is no right answer here. What’s best is what makes you relaxed. Scripts can generate mechanical presentations, but dead silence is worse. The key to being comfortable is to be prepared. If you use PowerPoint, Keynote or other software, never read off it directly. With practice, and content you believe in, any method works.
Main picture credit: Rex Features