“The secret to selling great work is to sell the idea of the work before you sell the work.”
― Peter Coughter, The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business.
It could be a new project, service, a form of funding or even the idea that closing at 3pm on a Friday would benefit the company as well as employees. Pitching a new idea at a business meeting is all about being clear, credible and compelling. Once your audience is invested, you’ve won half the battle.
With these tips you’ll be able to better outline the value of your idea, gain buy-in from the stakeholders that matter and ultimately turn your thinking into a reality.
Practise your pitch
Practice makes perfect. Knowing your topic inside and out is important but you also need to embody the enthusiasm of your pitch. If you’re going to deliver a business pitch presentation you need to know your solution and how it can bring about change before you set foot in the room. An effective way to do this is by organising a pitch practice session with colleagues, or even friends or family.
During your practice session, try not to rely on your slides. Instead, focus on rehearsing the key messages within your presentation so you can engage better with your audience when you deliver it.
Another good tip – video yourself as you rehearse your presentation. Just like sports people analyse their every touch of the football, stroke of the racket, or lap around the track, you’ll be able to see how your body language, gestures and tone are being delivered.
Knowing what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it, will give you confidence. Ridding yourself of nerves is the first step to learning how to pitch a business idea – authority speaks volumes.
The first few minutes of a pitch are crucial
Don’t save the best for last – bring it to the forefront, concisely and convincingly. Knowing how to deliver an excellent elevator pitch is extremely important when learning how to pitch an idea. An elevator pitch has to sell your idea quickly and powerfully, under 60 seconds – and it is possible.
Clearly define your critical selling message. You need to make sure your audience cares about your idea just as much as you do. Use facts, emotions or inspirational language to bring them along the journey of ‘why’; the subsequent slides can deal with the ‘how’.
Try not to leave the most important part of your presentation until the end – there’s no guarantee anyone will be listening.
Keep your pitch short
Short and sweet messages keep the focus on your pitch presentation – you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too many facts and figures. Demonstrate as simply as you can how your idea will positively impact the bottom line, then outline how you’ll execute the idea in easy-to-follow steps so they can see your vision clearly. If you think some in-depth industry data is vital, place it in the appendix section of your presentation.
It’s a good idea to make sure you allow time during the presentation for questions and discussion. Not only will this increase the engagement of the audience but it’s likely that you can use their questions and the feedback you receive to further evolve your idea. So it’s a win-win!
Use PowerPoint as a visual aid, not as the hero of your story
A PowerPoint presentation can help to reinforce your point – but it shouldn’t narrate the entire story. Slides should be concise, visually engaging and designed to drive the key messages home. What you’re saying, however, should always be more important than what’s on the slides. Use more visuals than text – that way you’ll know the audience is listening to you rather than reading from the screen.
There’s a simple trick to make sure you’ve got it right – the 10/20 PowerPoint rule. Try and use a maximum of 10 slides and keep your pitch presentation below 20 minutes. This roughly equates to:
|Presentation time||Number of slides|
Choose powerful words
Building a powerful narrative requires powerful words. Avoid words like “I think…” or “I guess…” and go for terms like “my analysis shows”, “in my experience”, or “the data illustrates”.
When pitching a business idea, you need to articulate value in a short, simple, confident manner. When practising your presentation, try and weed weak words out of your vocabulary as you want to appear passionate, enthusiastic and motivated to make this idea work.
Be aware your ideas may be challenged. Try and pre-empt what the audience is likely to ask and have a well thought-through response. However, don’t get defensive when defending your views. Instead, consider using their alternative views to evolve and strengthen your argument. Incorporating other people’s ideas into your thinking is a really great way to improve buy-in.
Preparation is key so try to research all the ins and outs. Not only will it build confidence in your idea, but also in you.
Engage the audience you’re pitching to
Half of knowing how to pitch an idea is knowing your audience, their goals and concerns. Try to research what they might already know about the subject and understand what their experience and interests are. It will shape how you pitch your idea and determine how they perceive them. Use easy-to-understand language and consider telling them a personal or funny story to bring them on the journey with you.
Other ways to engage your audience include:
- Plenty of eye connection
- Asking them questions
- If pitching to a smaller group, use audience members’ names in examples and questions
- Checking in regularly to monitor their understanding and buy-in
Dress for the occasion
What you choose to wear can be a surprisingly influential factor on whether your business pitch presentation is successful. In her book Presence, Harvard professor Amy Cuddy says people decide whether they trust and respect someone within seven seconds. So, in other words, dress the part – when you take yourself seriously, so does everyone else.
Of course what you wear must reflect the type of industry you’re in, as well as your workplace culture and personality. Having said that make comfort a priority. If you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing, you can concentrate solely on the task at hand and your personality will shine through.
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.