It’s always a challenge to present your ideas in front of an audience - whether it’s a room of 5 people, or a hall of thousands - delivering your idea is just so difficult sometimes. What makes it more “exciting” is the time limit. With a time limit, it makes the challenge seems more impossible. How do we convince and persuade our audience to believe in us in a short period of time?
Depending on who are we talking to - but most audiences doze off after 2 minutes if we don’t get to the point clear and fast. Then, we just become a dull and boring person babbling on and on about our idea. If we can’t keep our audience engaged, we just end up presenting a boring pitch.
But, we strive to excite people, move people, touch people’s heart through our pitches, isn’t it right?
After attending some pitching sessions and workshops (which are often named “The Art of Storytelling”, I wonder is there another title for this kind of sessions already?), and observing other fellow mates pitching, I want to share a few points that might be able to help all of us to improve the next time we are about to stand on the stage and convince our potential investors, judges or customers.
#1 - Simplicity
I understand that many businesses might have complex business models and processes, but we need to always strive to make it really simple for the audience to understand. If we only have 1-2 minutes to describe our solution, it’s very important to only present the simple steps on how your product/service is going to solve the problem. Leave the complicated part behind if you’re asked during Q&A. But if you can make the solution simple for people to understand, why bother to make life difficult for everyone?
Always use slides, graphic videos or animation - these tools make it really easier for people to catch up with your points, and for yourself to pitch at a moderate pace/manner (so that you don’t go out of breathe). This makes it more comfortable for both sides to convey and receive.
When describing processes, use simple steps like “3 steps to complete your order”. Or when describing your business model, use charts that are not more than 2 layers to deliver.
If it’s a new technology, in my opinion, it won’t help if you start drawing sophisticated maps on how your technology works. If it’s a small device - prototype it; if it’s a big device - draw simple maps and pin-point the few main functions before diving deep into it how your product works.
The key is to make it as simple as possible for audience WHO HAVE NOT HEARD YOU BEFORE grasp your idea easily and quickly. Yes, it’s not easy, especially within a time limit of 3-5 minutes, but it’s not impossible. So, get a group of friends and pitch your ideas to them, then discuss how you can make the delivery simpler. I’m sure with different inputs, you’ll be able to craft out a better pitch that is easy to understand.
#2 - Story
People love stories - whether it’s an investor, a judge or a stranger - people just love listening to stories. How did you start the business? What sparked the idea? What’s your vision? What do you believe in?
Craft the story from your heart. There must be a reason for you to come out with this business idea. Even if the “aha!” moment happened in your bed room, share it!
However, be very careful not to use too much time on story-telling. Some people might use up more than 2 minutes of their time limit talking about stories that might not be relevant to their idea. Some even ended up having very little time left to talk about their numbers, solutions, plans and vision. So if you need to script your story, script it out, practice, time yourself, and repeat for 938572987576598 times. THAT’S PART OF THE JOB.
I used to be really lazy to write scripts for my pitches, but when I started doing so, I realised that I could shorten so many points into clearer sentences and phrase them better. It helped me to understand my pitch way better than I ever did before.
#3 - Numbers
You ought to be very very clear with your numbers - you have to be sensitive. Remember, it’s your business, no one will know your numbers better than you do. When I talk about numbers, it’s sales, revenue, profit margin, customer acquisition cost, growth rate, etc. If you don’t know them by now, sit down with your finance person (if you have one) and count them out. It’ll help you in understanding your business better,
Audiences like to see numbers, numbers, numbers BUT not numbers like RM425,964, round them up. Hahah!
The more you understand your numbers, the more confidence your audience will have towards you . They get to know that you are serious about your business, and that you will definitely strive to grow the numbers. Be firm with your numbers, no businesses run without numbers.
#4 - Impact Measurement
This is a topic discussed by many researchers and practitioners around the world. How do you measure impact? It’s easy to measure numbers but when it comes to qualitative measurements, live changing measurements, economic landscape measurements, it is pretty hard and complicated.
However, it’s still possible. Depending on the social work that you are working on, every social project has outcomes that can be measured. I do think that working out some measurements with the community themselves (if you are working on the humanitarian causes) can show depth in your social impact, and these can be used in your pitches as well.
Picha used to be very worried about the small number of impact that we have, as one of our impact measurement was how many families/individuals are on board with Picha. I slowly realised that it doesn’t matter anymore because only you and yourself understand the work that you do thoroughly. Whether it’s testimony from the community, their live changing statements after they’ve met your organisation (emotionally and physically), customer/user’s experience - if you record them down, it can be your measurements as well.
Some examples of measurements that Picha uses:
- Families do not have to run away from home anymore during festive seasons being afraid that they cannot pay off their debts
- Families can finally send their kids to school, not having to worry if they can afford the school fees anymore
- Families find dignity in the work they do and also reach out to help one another
If you can quantify the impact, then quantify it. If you can’t, use stories and life testimonials to show the impact.
#5 - Practise in your sleep, in your dreams and during your TOILET BREAKS
It’s sometimes very easy to overlook pitches because it’s just 3-5 minutes, and it seems really short. But to deliver a pitch that is on-point and effective, we have to practise it sooooo many times until we can recite it like a mantra. If you are serious about your business, practising is one of the steps that will help you deliver your pitch much better and help your audience gain confidence in you.
Practising your script/pitch will give you the freedom to focus on other things like gesture, dynamics, stresses or sometimes improvisations (you never know what will happen). No one likes to listen to a flat pitch - memorise your pitch so that you can focus on other elements, get a mentor who is good in public speaking to help you, listen through and guide you. All you have to do is put in the effort in remembering your script at the first place.
If you have glitches in few phrases/sentences, break it down and repeat them multiple times before connecting them into the larger sentence or phrase. It’s just like practising music, you don’t practise right from the top if you are stuck at somewhere, you break it down, fix it and repeat that small section multiple times before putting back the pieces into the larger frame work.
Lastly, don’t just practise them in your bedroom in front of the mirror to yourself. Find a group of people that may not have heard about your idea before and start practising in front of them. If you can’t find friends to help you, there are many “Chill and Grill” or “Pitch and Grill” sessions organised by Nation Building School or MaGIC that are happening in KL. Go for one of them and be open to criticisms/feedbacks.
The above point are only my personal opinions and observations after hearing many pitches from my peers or colleagues of change makers. Everyone has their own style of delivery and I appreciate our diversity. However, these are just key elements to take note when delivering a convincing pitch. After all, you definitely want that confidence from the audience going into your business to help you grow.
I’ve been very fortunate to have mentors to guide me, and you can also find one of your own to help you along the way. I always believe that mentors are the best gift a business/social enterprise can have, so appreciate them and let them have some work to do 😉
I hope these points can help you in your future endeavour or pitches, and if you have other things to add on, don’t hesitate to comment below so that more people can benefit from it!
May the forces of Picha always be with you!