Most sales and investor pitches are dull, uninspiring and lose their audiences’ attention within the first few minutes. If the audience doesn’t suffer “death by PowerPoint,” they are “murdered by monotony” at the hands of a dull, lifeless speaker who inflicts upon them a steady stream of facts and figures, encouraging a search for distractions.
Uniform and Uninspiring
Some time ago, an idea had emerged that pitches need to have uniformity. Some entrepreneurs believe they need to have a certain number of slides, with a certain number of words on each slide and be structured in a particular way. Pitches have become efficient at the cost of inspiration. If you want to ensure your pitch doesn’t stand out and is easily forgotten, that’s the way to go.
If, however, you want your audience to take action, it’s not enough for your pitch to simply inform. It must also engage and inspire. Facts and figures are never enough, and efficiency should not be confused with effectiveness.
Gain and Retain Attention
Dr. John Medina, molecular biologist and author of “Brain Rules” has concluded on the basis of peer-reviewed research that your audience’s attention begins to wander after only ten minutes.
To combat this you should introduce elements of unpredictability and excitement into your pitch. No audience wants to hear what they already know and if they know what’s coming next, why bother listening? In the words of Dr. Medina,
“The brain doesn’t pay attention to boring things, and I am as sick of boring presentations as you are.”
It also means you need to use an array of techniques to maximize your pitch impact, including, but not limited to:
• A powerful opening
• A story that sells
• Stunning visuals rather than tired text. Your PowerPoint presentation must support, not replace you
• Your non-verbal communication. It counts for more than 50% of your communication impact, so make it work for you
If You Fail to Prepare, then Prepare to Fail
Too many pitches are prepared at the eleventh hour, amidst constant distraction and noise with minimal, if any, rehearsal. And PowerPoint presentations are often recycled with only minor changes. Given this approach it’s no surprise that most pitches are weak, ineffective and failing.
The greatest performers, athletes and world-class experts from all fields are not “naturals.” They reached the top of their game through using effective techniques and investing thousands of hours in preparation.
Business Week reported that Steve Jobs, wrongly perceived by many to be a naturally gifted performer, would spend “grueling hours of practice” when preparing his Macworld keynote speeches. Jobs began his process weeks ahead, even though he had been delivering spectacular keynote speeches for years. Jobs made presenting look easy because he worked hard at it.
If you want your investor or sales pitch to succeed, don’t follow the crowd. Give your audience a pitch they won’t stop talking about and give yourself the best chances of winning new clients and getting your business funded.