Can I Get a Word In?
Silence is purgatory. Questions are heaven.
Once Upon a Pitch Problem #2
You begin your pitch and are immediately hammered with questions. You start and stop, stammering and struggling to get into the flow of your practiced pitch. The questions are coming from different people, each interrupting you and each other, moving haphazardly around topics like market size and customer acquisition. You stagger between live questions and your canned pitch for a particular slide. You awkwardly finish and have no idea whether your pitch was successful or not. You may not even remember exactly what you did or did not say, and you are left, sweaty and wondering, “What happened?”
Change your perspective, change your outcome. Where you see agony, I see radical success. This is a hot audience which means they are engaged and interested. The goal of a pitch is for the audience to understand your story and retell it. This audience is dying to retell your story, they just need a little help making sure they understand it and that it is a story worth their time to retell. All those questions are a pitch dream come true: an audience keenly and deeply interested in what you have to say. Reframing your experience from an arrogant audience attack (“Why won’t they let me speak?”) to a super fan party on game day (“LFG!”) will ground you into unshakeable confidence. If you never get to a slide, don’t sweat it. You are recruiting passionate storytellers with every answer you give to every question. Remember to close the pitch with the moral of your story, the grand vision of your business, the reason to believe in your idea, and then drop the mic.
Over prepare. Practicing your pitch is key and you also need to practice answers to every conceivable question you could ever get about your business. You should have prepared answers for any relevant question you could be asked. Thinking on your feet during a pitch is always a mistake. No one wants spontaneity in high stakes situations; we all want well thought out, authoritative answers to hard questions. If you get asked a new, thoughtful question, just say so, “I will think about that question and get back to you.” The person asking that question knows your business so well they are probing a ‘next-level’ question and that is a blessing. Think about your answer and make a date with them to discuss, you are likely to need them to build your business.
Paint the picture of yourself first. Your pitch paints the picture of the new world in which the business problem is solved by your business solution. Before that, though, you must also paint the picture of yourself giving a flawless pitch, with every answer being spot-on, your cadence perfect, and your authenticity shining through to the audience. In your mind, you must pitch to yourself that you are the single best person in the world to pitch at that moment in time before that audience. Your mental mindset must leave no room for doubt. Before every pitch, close your eyes and visualize yourself, looking through your eyes, at the audience, speaking eloquently, transferring your story to your audience, handling any challenges like the deck failing to work or a jackhammer pounding concrete outside, answering a relentless interrogation with poise and conviction and finishing the vision with you receiving praise/funding/applause from the audience. This is your World Cup match, prepare for it and visualize it.
What They Said
We’ve all lamented, “If only I hadn’t said that.” Or mused, “If I had it to do over again, here’s what I should have said.” These regrets typically follow impromptu moments when you felt on the spot and didn’t have any material at the ready . . . You can try to chalk that up to nerves, but really it’s a simple lack of planning. Let’s be honest . . . Consider putting in some prep time as a career insurance policy. You may not end up needing it, but you never want to need it and not have it. This is a classic situation in which saying the first thing that pops into your head could be a career killer. – Bill McGowan and Alisa Bowman, Pitch Perfect: How to Say it Right the First Time, Every Time, page 176.
See You on the Track
Author The First Principles Pitch, startup storyteller, board member, advisor and investor. Once Upon a Pitch is a weekly newsletter looking at one business pitch problem and offering storytelling solutions to help solve that problem.
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