Fear of public speaking is the number one fear in the United States and number two fear in the United Kingdom. Given that the future of an entrepreneur’s business may greatly depend on the outcome of an investor pitch, it’s easy to see why ‘Pitch Fright’ can blow your pitch and destroy your chances of getting funded.
Even if you’ve created an awesome pitch deck, investors are going to worry if you dry up in the middle of your pitch, come across as unclear or are unable to answer their probing questions. They’ll worry about your ability to pitch potential clients for businesses or new investors when it’s time for further funding.
There are a number of highly effective techniques that can be employed to eliminate or substantially reduce your pitch fear so that it is no longer disabling. Many of these have been developed as neuroscience has increased our understanding of how the brain works.
One of the simplest is to make sure you bring the right ‘persona’ into the room. That’s ‘persona’ not ‘person’. We all use different personas for the different contexts we find ourselves in and the people we’re with. We have a persona that we bring out when we are with our closest family, a persona for friends, one for work colleagues, one for strangers, one for the IRS, etc. Using the right persona in the right context is essential for a successful outcome. Your seduction persona is not ideal for dealing with the IRS. Upon reflection, for some, I guess it could be!
Ditch the Pitch Persona
We’re comfortable and confident with the personas that we use frequently. But when entrepreneurs go into a pitch, which for many is unfamiliar (or even hostile) territory, they tend to bring a new persona into the room. For many, this pitch persona is inexperienced and lacking in confidence. The persona has not yet fully developed and is still trying to work out how it should behave. This new persona is consequently lacking in personality and unable to connect with its audience. This is not the most useful persona to have in the room.
A Simple but Effective Shift
The following technique is incredibly simple, highly effective and can be employed in minutes. Despite its ease and simplicity, we have consistently seen this technique transform nervous and speechless entrepreneurs into confident, articulate advocates capable of persuading the toughest investors. Apply these steps and your confidence will soar.
1) Determine the scenario when you feel most confident and at the top of your game. Ideally this is a work / professional context when you are communicating with others. For some entrepreneurs it’s when they are running a meeting with their startup team. For others, it’s when they closing a sale with a very eager client.
2) Explore the persona you bring to life in this context. How do you feel? How do you behave? How do you communicate? What’s your mindset? Write this information down on one side of a piece of paper and memorize it.
3) Now think of one specific example from the above category where you really were at the top of your game and felt extremely confident. Determine what you were feeling and thinking at the time.
4) Decide that you will bring that persona into the pitch. And it’s really as simple as making that decision and committing to it. You decide which persona to use every single day of your life.
5) Spend 5 minutes each day visualizing yourself employing that winning persona. Focus on how your persona feels, communicates and thinks.
6) Do the same again 5 minutes before your pitch and make sure, whatever else happens, that your chosen persona comes into the room