Tuesday 17 October 2017

Here are a few simple steps to help craft the perfect 60-second business pitch

Life's a pitch - but are you pitch ready?
Life's a pitch - but are you pitch ready?

Catherine Moonan

Life's a pitch - but are you pitch ready? Regardless of whether you're a startup, staff member or ceo, you need to be able to pitch your idea, yourself or your company any time, any place, anywhere.

You may not even realise the many opportunities you get in a day to pitch. It doesn't have to be a formal networking event or even a pitch competition; it's often just a conversation with the right person at the right time.

Pitching can be a daunting experience, especially if you're not comfortable speaking in public. Aside from nerves, many of the entrepreneurs I meet tend to over-complicate and over-intellectualise their pitch. In order for me to have a clear understanding of their business, I find I often have to sit down with them and ask the questions: "Where, why, how, when did you start? Where are you now with the business? What's the plan for the future?"

I've coached more than 500 'Dragons' Den' contestants on their pitch and helped them secure in excess of €5m in investment.

I try to encourage them to think of their pitch like a story - their unique story.

However, that story needs to be simple and compelling in order for it to be memorable. You can't expect people to be interested just because you're speaking - you really have to work at engaging your audience.

In fact, the starting point of any pitch is the audience. You need to research and tailor your pitch to your target audience. Who is in your audience? What's in it for them? Why should they care?

Next month I will be in my 'Perfect Pitch' workshop as part of Local Enterprise Week 2017 for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, taking participants through the steps of crafting and delivering a 60-second pitch.

Catherine Moonan has helped hundreds of Dragons’ Den contestants secure investment
Catherine Moonan has helped hundreds of Dragons’ Den contestants secure investment

There will be dozens of different stories in the room, yet if they follow the simple steps, everyone should be able to deliver their unique pitch by the end of the workshop. Some will be able to deliver it to the whole group.

I use my own creative brainstorming technique to get people to think from the heart as well as the head, and to tap into the right side of the brain. This involves mindful breathing, music and colour. Then I provide an outline for people to structure their pitch in a story format.

So what characterises this story?

You need to start your pitch with a wow opening that will capture the attention of the audience. This is followed by between three and five main umbrella headings, with a logical flow and a smooth transition from one point to another.

Your pitch should end with a strong closing that overlaps back to the opening. For example, if you open with a question, quote or reference, mention it again in your closing. This brings the story full circle. It's like 'The End' at the end of a movie.

Think of your pitch like the trailer of the movie. You're just giving the golden nuggets of information - enough to make them want to watch the whole movie!

Finally, it's not what you say, it's how you say it. Your voice is like a musical instrument. You need to vary it through pitch, pace, pause and emphasis to avoid monotony. You also need to have a confident posture in order to instil confidence in your audience. Shoulders back. Feet fixed to the floor. Eye contact and gesture that reinforces your message. Manage nerves using mindful breathing, visualisation or positive affirmations.

You need to get comfortable pitching. Everyone's doing it. Your pitch is your new business card!

Catherine Moonan is author of 'The Pitch Coach' (Liberties Press). Her 'Perfect Pitch' workshop, as part of Local Enterprise Week, takes place on March 6 in the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan, Co Dublin. www.localenterprise.ie/DLR

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