Making a speech is stressful: all the research and preparation, the drafting process, practicing over and over, the uncomfortable weight of so many eyes on you, hoping they won’t notice your voice shaking…
My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.
Most of us, at some point in our lives, will have to make a presentation and it will have to be effective. The most common scenario (outside of university) is pitching a business proposal to a new client. What you say and how you say it could mean more revenue, more professional influence and a lasting partnership. As Nancy Duarte says in her TED talk: ‘If you communicate an idea in a way that resonates, change will happen.’ Use these guidelines to make your pitch successful.
Have a Narrative
Humans are hard-wired for stories: we like looking for them, we like telling them and above all, we like hearing them. So avoid fact-dumping: don’t plop a load of information, data and analyses in the laps of your listeners and expect them to put everything together themselves. Feed them something they can recognise and respond to: the story of your pitch – whether it’s about a concept, product, or proposal – with a beginning, middle, and an end.
Have a Shape
In addition to giving your pitch a clear narrative structure, you need to demonstrate why your material is worth investing in. In order to do this, you need to take another page out of Nancy Duarte’s book: compare and contrast between what is and what could be using her persuasive story pattern. Within the context of a business pitch, the ‘what could be’ is the company improved with the benefit of your services. Let’s pretend you are a software provider and you are trying to convince a business to start using your program. Highlight exactly how your software will help them – save time, streamline files, increase online security, boost employee morale, whatever you are pitching – and make them need your solution.
Have an ‘Elevator Pitch’
Having a story-like structure does not mean you should ramble on. Quite the opposite. Imagine you have the span of an elevator ride to summarise your point. Less is most definitely more in this situation. Also, make sure you don’t bore or confuse your audience with a bunch of projections or hypotheses – stick to the facts.
Have an Engaging Presence
Don’t sell your delivery short. When proposing your ideas, use body language to convey confidence and interact with your material. Gestures – like pointing to your visual aids – show that you are engaged with your presentation and will help guide your audience’s attention. Depending on the space, feel free to move around (although make sure this doesn’t turn into pacing).
Don’t shy away from making eye contact. Make your audience feel included in your presentation by talking to them rather than talking at them. Think of it as a conversation – albeit slightly less personal and much more rehearsed. You wouldn’t want the person you’re speaking to staring at their shoes or a wall at the far end of the room the whole time, would you? If you’re nervous about making eye contact, pick out a few friendly-looking faces to focus on and alternate between them.
End on a Positive Note
Be enthusiastic, and maintain that throughout your presentation. You want to give the audience a ‘call to action’ of sorts and leave them feeling inspired and hopefully, after your well-executed pitch, you will have a new client!
Gemma is a Senior Campaign Specialist for Citrix GoToMeeting. She has been part of the Demand Generation team for the past five years, looking after anything from webinars to content creation. In her spare time she enjoys playing volleyball, trying to learn Portuguese and eating cake – lots of cake. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter @GemmaFalconer
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