Becoming Pitch Perfect

Man delivers presentation to a group in a conference room.

by Richard Robles

You sit right outside a conference room, nervously waiting for someone to call you in. You quickly review your talking points, rehearsing them one last time before you begin your presentation. You finish rehearsing your pitch before someone emerges from the conference room and beckons you in. You take a deep breath, beginning your pitch. All eyes are on you now.

Pitching an idea or product is a challenge for many people — not just for younger entrepreneurs, but for experienced business professionals as well. Pitching an idea well to a group of seasoned investors and businesspeople can determine the fate of your business or product before the idea manifests. A pitch can also be an attempt to convince another party to support and invest in a business idea.

Do background research on your audience: Knowing your audience can help better tailor your pitch. If you know who you’re meeting with, then reflect on their professional background. Were these people supportive of previous, similar ideas, or have they been skeptical of past projects? Do any of these individuals have a specialty or expertise in the industry you are pitching in? Did they pitch a similar idea or product when they were younger? All of this information is out there for you to find. See if any of your audience has a company bio or a LinkedIn profile. Check if they have an active Twitter profile and see what their outlook is on certain ideas and trends.

Alternatively, if you can’t find any relevant information on your audience, try to come up with an audience persona. An audience persona is a convenient marketing tool that can help you imagine your audience’s goals and fears. It can provide you with a framework to guide your pitch. This website has an excellent four-step process for creating a market persona.

Facts and figures — knowing your numbers: You want to be familiar with all of the financial details concerning your project as you deliver your pitch. These potential investors want to know as much as they can about your idea or business. They may be curious about future plans and current financial details, such as your annual sales, your turnover rate, and other vital details that measure the success of your business. Knowing key numbers is standard for any entrepreneur — not knowing these numbers is a surefire way to kill an idea or business before it can even be put into action. Having a detailed infographic can answer many potential questions investors have.

Use visual media: Studies have shown that visual aids transmit information quickly and help in its comprehension. Using a slideshow can help demonstrate your business’ potential or your idea’s revolutionary prospects. A slideshow can accompany your pitch and narrate a bigger story that cannot be told just in words. A video can tell a story just as well as a person can, if not better. Even simple graphs can aid in the comprehension of complex financial details. Developing an assortment of visual aids is essential to convincing investors to buy into your ideas. It also shows a mastery in creative design that helps convince investors of an entrepreneur’s ability to show information well. Websites like Canva have a plethora of templates for infographic design, and word processing programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs have built-in features that generate graphs and charts.

Sell your story: In order for you to convince others on your ideas, you must first convince yourself of those very ideas. Be passionate about what you’re championing. Tell a story that compels. Tell a story that builds empathy and solidarity with your audience. When you initially pitch, go beyond what drives you and put yourself in the shoes of the investors. Being fiercely passionate about your idea or business can help persuade others to be just as passionate.

Practice and rehearse your pitch: Good pitches flow well and have built-in transitions. But good pitches take time to develop. Practice makes a good pitch even better. Ask your friends or family to listen to you give a practice pitch. Ask for feedback. Learn and reflect from the mistakes you make now. A good pitch is not done without planning or on the night before you give it.

Being able to give a great pitch is not only helpful for businesses, but for everyday occurrences as well. This skill is transferable to almost every aspect of everyday life. Whether you find yourself in the boardroom, the classroom, or the conference room, being able to convince others is a great skill.

Este artículo está disponible en español.

Richard Robles is a student of government and environmental science & policy at the College of William & Mary. He works as a research assistant for the TDF team at AidData, a research lab at the Global Research Institute of William & Mary. In his free time, he enjoys greeting and petting every four-legged companion he sees, on campus or at home, including his own dog, Lulu Belle.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.