Pitching Your Passion: Persuading Others to Join Your Mission – Advice from YLAI Fellow Maira Peres

2017 YLAI Fellow Maira Peres

Maira, co-founder of Diosa and one of the winners of the 2017 YLAI Pitch Competition, delivers insights on how to deliver a successful pitch.

Maira Peres (left) and Doisa colleague
Photo courtesy of Maira Peres, Doisa

I think passion is something that really matters. If you give a pitch like a robot, just firing off information, people will have trouble believing in what you’re saying. Someone who is passionate about the content has the ability to get through to and captivate their audience.

While there is no simple algorithm for creating a successful pitch, Maira points to storytelling as the key to forming an effective pitch. It is not about placing facts in a certain order; it is more about telling the story of the business. You should tell your story and describe your company in a way that makes sense to you.

When I was trying to create my speech from scratch, I was trying to tell my story based on how I felt. I want to make the crowd feel what I felt when I created the company. When I can get the audience involved in what I’m saying, that’s when I feel really happy.

How much does practice make perfect?

I gave a lot of bad pitches before I gave good ones. I can compare the differences between them, and I think the bad pitches were the ones I didn’t practice enough beforehand. Practicing doesn’t make you robotic; it makes you own your speech. The key is that you have to practice a lot and know everything you’re saying word by word. It doesn’t matter if during the presentation you change a word or the order as long as you know what you’re going to say. It won’t escape your mind as long as you practice and own your speech. I didn’t like practicing before, but then I realized it gives you confidence onstage. You may still become nervous onstage even though you have practiced, but the words will not escape you. People need to embrace the fear; your body may shake and your breathing may become weird, but you can still do it!

Are statistics necessary in a pitch?

If you give numbers and statistics with good sources, people will believe in your concept much more than just through stating personal experiences. Your audience doesn’t really know the numbers. When I say that 97% of women in Brazil suffered some kind of abuse, people are shocked. It’s very important to show the importance of the problem you are trying to solve with your company through these statistics.

Visual aids? Yea or nay?

Visual aids are very necessary. It’s important that people remember your company and your name. I repeat my company’s name at the beginning and at the end of the pitch. The brand and the pictures of the work must appear, and the numbers must be visual. You cannot have a lot of text in the PowerPoint because it will distract the audience from what you’re saying. I think it’s really important that you have your brand and your visual identity appear on screen throughout the entire pitch.

You have a general idea for who may buy your product. Now what?

You need to know who you’re talking to and then you can plan your communication accordingly. You can do social media advertising anywhere, but in order for this to be effective you need to know your target audience and know how they are consuming. How are they currently solving this problem without your solution? How will you show up in their mind when they have this problem?  

Colleagues and friends from women-owned company Doisa
Photo courtesy of Maira Peres, Doisa

Mainly, people need to know it’s a real company and not merely online. You need a physical presence in physical spaces such as in universities and on the streets. People must see your branding and your shirts. When they see the women workers with your shirts they realize this is a real company with real women, and we can see the difference in neighborhoods where we appear more than in other neighborhoods where we do not work as much.

The importance of social media in advertising: In what ways do your potential customers use social media?

A website would not have any traffic without social media. You must understand the different kind of audience each type of social media attracts. At the beginning of our company three years ago we were working a lot on Facebook and it was working well for our public. But now things are changing and people are using different kinds of social media. So now we’re investing a lot with Instagram. It’s more informal and people can feel like they are closer to the company with this platform.

To share, or not to share … Innovation often rides on sharing ideas, and an idea that is already great can be built on even further.

The thing that made a big difference for me in preparing for the pitch was sharing. There were nine other people competing with me in the Pittsburgh competition. I remember recording myself and sharing it with the WhatsApp group and asking for others’ opinions. And I remember there were people competing who didn’t want to show their pitches or talk about what they were doing as if they had a secret they wouldn’t share in order to win. If I’m doing something right I want to share it with you, and if I’m doing something wrong I want to talk to you and improve. I think sharing and cooperating is a really good thing. The more you share, the more you can receive feedback on what you’re doing. People also will never be able to exactly replicate what you are doing. It’s not always the style or the presentation that matters in the pitch competitions, even if the person completely copies your methods; it’s a different company and different aspects of it will be judged. Everyone can go farther if they cooperate.

Successfully convincing investors and customers to back an idea depends not only on the brilliance of the business model but also on how the entrepreneur portrays their thoughts and emotions through the pitch. Preparing a pitch presents the opportunity to tell a story and even change an audience’s perspective on a given topic. Maira shows us that with passion, practice and openness to criticism we can create a pitch that moves and inspires investors and entrepreneurs alike.

Women's empowerment company Doisa
Photo courtesy of Maira Peres, Doisa

Find out more about Diosa through her website (em português).

Working on crafting the perfect pitch? Download the YLAI Network’s toolkit (también en español) to help make your speech the best it can be.

Learn more about #YLAIPitchPerfect.