Ever been in that nerve-wracking situation where you’ve had to pitch your work, prototypes, ideas or yourself? Was your presentation a runaway success? If you were unable to knock it out of the park, then you might need to go back to the drawing board to plan your next presentation, because there’s a careful and considered art to a pitch and the following tips will help you get in the right mindset for pitching success.
1. Carefully plan your conversation and sell your idea
Even if you’re the most charismatic and persuasive person, “winging it” is never a good plan when talking to clients, customers or potential employers. It’s so much more effective to research and plan your conversational strategy and be able to explain your motivation than to rely on the strength of your ideas - no matter how awesome they are. It makes your concepts 10 times more meaningful and sellable if you’re able to justify all your decisions and strategies with evidence that you thought about a problem and offered a solution.
A great idea is often unexpected and not immediately met with excitement and awe. There is an expectation from people that you’ll talk them through an idea and sell the concept. Watch any episode of ABC’s Shark Tank and see how the successful entrepreneurs on the show are initially met with a lukewarm response but are able to sell an idea because they came prepared with information and answers. When trying to sell an idea, you give yourself a better shot at closing a deal if you can explain how your concept saves on materials, gains better customer engagement, appeals to a demographic, improves key metrics, boosts conversions, etc.
Here is a checklist that you might want to apply to your presentation strategy before pitching an idea:
- What was the problem you needed to solve?
- How did you determine the problem and what was your approach?
- What roadblocks did you face and how did you overcome them?
- What was the result? Did you get an unintended benefit?
2. Be clear, precise and offer immediate value
To make your client understand how your idea adds value to their company, you must first understand your client’s needs and answer those exact needs with your ideas. You can’t possibly do too much client homework, i.e., researching their competitors, seeing what ideas they’ve green-lit before, and finding areas where you think your idea can improve on something.
By all means build a good rapport with your clients before your presentation, but don’t try to build momentum or start your pitch off slowly. Deliver immediate value by opening with your most important details. Don’t make the client wait ten minutes before you get to the actual idea, grab their attention immediately.
When going into any pitch ensure that you also have plenty of sketches, wireframes, handouts, reports and any other materials that prove you’ve done your homework. But don’t present any materials that aren’t critical to your presentation. Materials such as simple eye track studies and reports that point out website problems and how to solve those problems, or fully-formed prototypes that can be passed around and reviewed, are examples of essential materials to bring to your pitch. Before you step into a pitch, ask yourself, “What is it I’m trying to present? How do I best illustrate my idea? And what would I want to see if I was on the other side of this presentation?”
Before your pitch, consider these tips to bring added value to the presentation:
- Instead of using Powerpoint, consider picking up a marker and draw things on a board – people are instinctively drawn to the act of creation and will watch intently to see what you’re going to come up with
- Make your pitch seem natural and unrehearsed and uncover essential client information – by not talking continuously and offering conversational pauses to give the client a chance to ask questions, you allow yourself the opportunity to provide the right answers
- The old idea of the “elevator pitch” in which you can explain your whole concept in a 30 second soundbyte is still just as relevant today and can help you focus your mind on the most important benefits of your product, design or idea – use it like a brand guide throughout your prep and pitch and present your business in a manner that's short, sweet and to the point
3. Put on a fearless performance and knock it out of the park
In this instance, the word “performance” doesn’t mean playing the role of the ShamWow salesman, it actually means the opposite. When you present your pitch, you have to be absolutely genuine but at the same time understand how to properly communicate. Things like eye contact, tone of voice and ability to convey conviction are essential elements of any conversation. So, if you’re not good at these, practice speaking with friends and family and make those important points about your idea feel like second nature. Everyone has a persona, and the client wants to see your real one, just be the best version of yourself.
Ideally, you should have more than one person when pitching ideas to clients. It helps to share the burden of nerve-wracking pitches but also positions one of you in an “observer” mode, meaning that you can take over the conversation if you notice that your partner has missed something important or is momentarily stumped for an answer.
It is imperative that you believe in your idea and have total confidence in it. Don’t second-guess and don’t start losing faith. What’s the point in pitching an idea if you are apathetic about it? It absolutely shows if you don’t believe in what you’re saying and will kill a pitch stone dead if you give off a “vibe” that you are in any doubt. Never be modest and exude the sort of excitable confidence that comes from someone who is passionate about what they do and what they can offer. Stay in that confident mindset throughout your performance – don’t be afraid to succeed, even though that is a truly terrifying thought for many of us.
With the correct preparation and performance on the day, you give yourself a much better chance of winning a pitch. You probably won’t win every pitch or presentation you give, but you can build on those experiences and take them to the next presentation that will feel even sweeter when you knock it out of the park.
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