8 ways to upgrade your business pitch
Rob Geraghty, a consultant at the iOpener Institute, will coach the regional winners of this year’s Chivas The Venture social entrepreneur competition at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford. This accelerator week will help prepare the contestants for the global finals in LA this summer. He shares his tips below on how to perfect your presentation.
1. Shorten your message
The biggest problem is that people have too much to say, and their core message gets lost. Also, make sure you think about that message in terms that your audience will understand. What do they already know or not know?
2. Improve your slides
PowerPoint kind of forces you into producing bullet points, which tend to be notes for the speaker rather than enhancements for the audience. I encourage presenters to ditch these prompts in favour of something memorable. For example, if you’re telling me a compelling story about someone, why not play a 30-second video clip. And instead of showing me generic clipart pictures, show me something personal that you took. It’s a lot more real and I’ll be more inclined to believe what you’re saying.
3. Use interactive technology
There are alternatives to PowerPoint, such as Prezi, so find the software you’re comfortable with. You can get interactive polling tools, or apps that allow the audience to tweet questions that come up on a display. Glisser lets participants see your slides on their device and choose which ones they like. Or they can select the topics they’re most interested in. This will help engage your audience, which is your ultimate aim.
You need to practice, and preferably in front of people who’ll give you critical feedback. It’s also good to record yourself so you can see what needs work. This is again where working with coaches really makes a difference. I might get someone to repeatedly deliver the same slide to see how their core message evolves.
5. Don’t memorise a script
This can lead to panic if you forget a line. I prefer people to have a clear idea of where they’re going, and know the three or four points they want to make, but how exactly they are going to make them doesn’t matter.
6. Over-confidence is your enemy
I see people who are used to talking in front of people, but this can lead to a lack of focus and clarity. Conversely, if you’re not so confident you might be inclined to practise more. Or perhaps you’re delivering your pitch in a second language, which can actually be a strength because you have to keep things simple, which is a skill that most people struggle with.
7. Learn from the experts
Nancy Duarte has written some great books and was behind lots of Steve Jobs’ Apple launches. Garr Reynolds has compiled some excellent information, from the delivery of your message to creating your presentation. TED Talks are inspirational and have raised the game in terms of what we expect from presentations. Its curator, Chris Anderson, last year released TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking and it’s a very useful tool.
8. Don’t undersell yourself
Last year’s global Chivas The Venture winner, Oscar Mendez, who founded Conceptos Plasticos, uses waste plastic to make bricks that are used for low-cost, easily assembled, earthquake-proof housing. It’s an incredible idea that he wasn’t shouting about, because it was just what he did; he was too close to it. This, again, is where feedback really helps. We often feel a little uncomfortable about selling ourselves but an impartial outsider can help define your unique selling points and hone your message.