With only a couple of days to go until the 11th edition of the Accenture Innovation Awards, we are counting the days and the semi-finalists are preparing their one-minute pitches to win over the judges at the upcoming central jury event. Only the best pitchers will make it to the Innovation Summit. But… what makes a pitch perfect? What will have the audience on the edge of their seats? The buzzer will go off after exactly sixty seconds, so preparation is needed for this nerve-wracking moment. Two renowned public speaking experts, David Beckett and Michael Diederich, shared their vision on pitching last Friday at Boom Chicago.
David Beckett is a pitch and TEDx speech coach, with a wide-ranging experience in the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds. Some of David’s tips for a one-minute pitch are:
1. Brainstorm is the start
Work out your storyline in advance and give yourself the space you need. Don’t instantly go for software, like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, but use the good, old post-its. Grab a pen and write down everything that comes to your mind on the pieces of sticky paper. It could be the problem you are trying to solve, product you created or significant milestones that you have achieved up until now. Then, select the post-its with the most noteworthy points, place them in a fitting order and use this as the basis for your storyline.
2. Repeat and rehearse
Saying things out loud – with or without an audience – can improve your speech a lot. You will be able to hear if this is really what you want to communicate or wording that can be changed. Pitching is more than just reading out the words. Also, find out which words can be emphasized on, to make your story livelier, more gripping and convincing.
3. Have a strong opening and closing
You impress the audience when you enter and leave the stage with a powerful statement. Otherwise, the audience will hardly remember you. Don’t waste time and kick off the speech boldly, both entering and exiting like a king/queen. Opening the pitch with an anecdote or a question to capture everyone’s attention. Ending with a simple and loud ‘Thank you’, a queue for applause, will keep that attention until the very end.
4. The power of three
It’s hard to remember a long list – both for you and the audience – so keep it simple. Just focus on three main ideas and feel free to repeat them, until you feel confident that the audience can do the same.
5. Make it personal
Make your pitch relatable. You are not only pitching your idea, product or business. You are a part of this idea and the one investors will work with. Don’t be afraid to get emotional, show your passion and personality throughout the pitch. Tell them your big moment, a breakthrough, the realization that this problem needs to be solved… Give the audience a chance to know you and your ambitions better.
But doing all of the above will still not guarantee a perfect pitch. According to Michael Diederich, a pitch can be compared to a short theater show. As a performer, he shared the following tips with our semifinalists during the Scale-Up Academy:
6. Know the audience
Focus on a few people across the room – on the ones that are paying attention and smiling– and make eye contact with them. This will encourage you to be confident and make you enjoy presenting your pitch more. Still have stage fright? Here’s the medicine:
7. Be dedicated
Show that you are an expert and be dedicated to your pitch. If you keep telling yourself: ‘I don’t want to pitch”, the audience will feel it too.
8. The use of flashcards is OK
Using of flashcards shows that you are prepared, but don’t clutter them with information. Have no more than one point per card, it should aid and not confuse you.
All the tips above should give you a head start for preparing your pitch. Seems like a lot to remember, doesn’t it? But with practice, the focus points will easily slide off your tongue and contribute to a fascinating and convincing pitch. They will serve as a solid foundation, onto which you can add a personal touch. A good pitch can help you get into the finals and make your ambition become a reality.