Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Pitch

When you're in business, you always have a pitch to make. If it's not to potential investors, it's to a major client. If it's not a major client, it's to your own board or leadership team, asking them to try things a new way. Sometimes, you'll even find yourself making a pitch to your staff—seeking their buy-in. In Alexander Bouri's experience, a good business leader is always pitching, which makes this a central skill of business. But how do you get good at it? Here are Alexander Bouri's tips.

1.  Jump straight into it – You might think it's important to start off with a joke, or a personal story, or a leading question. All of those tactics can work, but none of them actually tell your audience what you offer or what's valuable about your idea, product or company. The number one thing on your audience's mind as you start your pitch is, "Is this person worth my time?" It's best to leave aside the audience-warming tactics and dive straight into what you can do for your audience. Lead strong with a big, bold claim. This can be your promise to solve a major problem the audience has or it can be the biggest, most impressive feature of whatever you're there to pitch. Now you've got their attention.

2.  Keep it short – Shorter than you think you need to. Even experienced businessmen routinely overestimate how long they can truly keep their audience's attention. The reality is that everyone in the room wants to know the bottom line and if you can't explain it quickly, you've lost them. You might have been given a thirty-minute time slot to make your presentation, but keep it to twenty minutes. If you were only given twenty, keep it to twelve.

3.  Never read your slides – Slides are there as visual aids and to emphasize key ideas. Use only a small number of slides—maybe a dozen in a twenty minute pitch—and use words sparingly on them. This will force you to speak, not read, your ideas.

4.  Practice, practice, practice – The only way to get good at pitching is to pitch a lot. Do a practice run before any big pitch and do as many "little" pitches as possible. You never know when someone will become a client!

These are just a few of the things that Bouri has learned are essential to making a good pitch. How else do you keep your business pitches in top shape?

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