Ten tips to help you make the perfect pitch online
Our next batch of top tips comes from Ginny Radmall of The Ivy Way, sharing her tips to make effective pitches over video.
Pitching over video is now the new norm, and startup founders have had to adapt quickly to make sure they do not fall behind. Here’s my winning formula to help you communicate what you do in a compelling way when faced with this challenge.
As human beings, we all have habits that we fall back on when we communicate. Some of them are good and enhance what we are saying, while others actually distract the audience from what we are trying to communicate.
Over the past few months during the current crisis, I’ve worked with hundreds of business founders, helping them improve how they are pitching virtually. I’ve also been featured on the Croydon Business Webinar and worked with the brilliant team at TMRW coaching on their Fundraising Bootcamp.
Even if pitching doesn’t come naturally to you, I believe that bad habits can be unlearnt and that people can pitch in a way that makes their audience sit up and listen, ultimately moving them to do something in response. Here are my top ten tips for pitching well over video.
1. Identify your key message
Ask yourself: ‘If my audience only remembered one thing from my pitch, what should it be?’. The hope is that your audience will remember much more than that, but it is a good place to start. It will provide you with a ‘red thread’ that runs through your pitch. Use this and build the rest of your content around it, making sure you are reinforcing your message, rather than going off on unnecessary tangents.
2. Cut the filler words
When a pitch is filled with a lot of ‘umms’, ‘ahhs’ and words like ‘kind of’ or ‘basically’ your audience will lose focus. Some scientists now believe our attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish and while there is debate around this, anything that you can do to keep your audience’s attention will only aid you. Because you will get much less real-time feedback in a virtual call than you would in a face-to-face pitch, you will need to fight the temptation to fill any gaps in conversation with filler words. Practise breathing between your sentences instead.
3. Stand up when you are pitching
In 1967, Albert Mehrabian’s study on non-verbal communication found that 55% of what you communicate is through body language, 38% is through the tonality of your voice, and the final 7% through the text you are saying. With this in mind, you will need to think about the delivery as well as the content of your pitch. Standing gives you more energy, more room to breathe and can help battle nerves. I use a make-shift laptop stand when I’m pitching so I can stand up with my laptop at eye-level. You can use anything from around your house to build a similar structure. To ensure you are standing tall, this is a great exercise called ‘The String’.
4. Use stories in your pitch
A study by Stanford University found that a story (when told well) is 22 times more powerful than a fact. People need connection more than ever, so use stories to explain your customer’s pain, or what you’re doing to make a difference in the world. Make sure you have a clear beginning, middle and end, and include emotion and pictures.
5. Use less jargon
Most founders will suffer from what Donald Miller describes as ‘the curse of knowledge’. You are an expert in your company and on the problem you are solving, and this means you will naturally speak in more technical language. Our brains don’t like burning unnecessary calories trying to figure out complex words, so keep your pitch simple and use metaphors where you can to enable anybody to understand you.
6. Keep your slides as simple as possible
If you are using Zoom, Teams or Skype, when you share your screen your slides will dominate the screen, and you will appear as a small thumbnail. When I’m coaching people I often say to them ‘You are Beyonce, and your slides are your backing dancers’. Your slides should back you up, rather than stealing the limelight or overwhelming the audience with too much information.
7. Make sure your camera is at eye level
No one wants to see your nostrils, so whether you are using your laptop camera or a webcam, make sure it is at eye level, rather than below your chin. Try as much as you can to look directly into the camera, as this will help you engage with your audience.
8. Project your voice when you are speaking
Because the audio quality isn’t as good over video, you cannot afford to mumble! Think about over pronouncing your words or warming up your voice and facial muscles. A good way to warm-up your jaw is to imagine you have toffee stuck in your teeth. Use your tongue as if it is a toothbrush, and move it around in circles in one direction like you are cleaning your teeth, before bringing it back in the opposite direction.
9. Bring the passion
If you look bored and sound uninspired you will struggle to engage your audience. We have mirror neurons in our brains, so do what you can to make sure you are leading your audience to where you need them to be emotionally. Think about smiling as you are speaking to bring warmth and energy.
10. Record yourself pitching, and then watch it back
Most people don’t enjoy doing this, but it will give you a good idea of where your pitch is landing for your audience, and what still needs some work. It is really helpful to watch the video without sound so you can just focus on your body language. Then watch the clip with the sound on but look away from the screen so you can make note of where the tonality and volume are adding to the pitch, and where you can amplify these elements.
Pitching virtually is arguably harder than pitching face-to-face. But learning how to do it well now and practising new habits will make you stand out from the crowd. As Malcolm Gladwell says you’re ‘in a race to communicate why your customers need these products in their lives’. Make sure you do what you can to get ahead of the curve.
More about The Ivy Way
The Ivy Way equips startups and corporates to communicate with passion, whether to an audience of one or on a stage in front of 1000’s.
Through personalised group coaching and one-to-ones, The Ivy Way helps individuals craft their messaging in a memorable way, and then empowers them to deliver their content with impact using posture, breathing and vocal techniques. Having worked with some of the biggest tech companies, and thousands of individuals around the world, we believe everyone has the ability to communicate powerfully, and that adopting some simple frameworks can take you from being a good presenter to a great one.