Guide for the pitching apprentice

Series: The art of pitching

27 June 2019

While there are different ways to pitch, there is no magic formula for nailing a business presentation. It all boils down to hard work, practice and a handful of elements you need to review before jumping into the ring. Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself before putting the final touches on your business presentation.

1. Who am I pitching to? What do I know about my audience?

Before you introduce yourself, conduct a mini-investigation on your audience (clients, investors, employees) to tailor your pitch, says Jean-Jacques Stréliski, associate professor in the department of marketing at HEC Montréal and trainer at Parcours Innovation PME Montréal. “What keeps them up at night? What are their concerns? This information will  shape the kinds of solutions you propose to the issue identified in your pitch.” How do you go about that? “People love to talk. So get them talking, via social media, your network…” suggests Mr. Stréliski.

Once you’ve done your research, all you have to do is adapt your language and personalize your message to build a “psychological bridge” with those you’re pitching to.

2. Is my pitch sufficiently clear, concise, heartfelt?

Those are the three keys to good communication, according to Jacques Marsan. This public communication and media coach breaks it down as follows:

CLEAR: “People should not have to struggle to understand you. You need a good structure that effectively organizes the key elements.”

CONCISE: A pitch can never be too short. It can, however, be too long! People are busy, so you need to catch their attention, get to the point and present only the information they need to understand the project. You need to streamline your pitch and maximize impact.”

HEARTFELT: “To onboard people, you have to sincerely believe what you’re saying and love what you’re proposing. A good way to do this is to use words that emphasize elements that are true, sincere and vibrant. If my project values humanity or has a particularly structuring impact, I’m going to use those words.”

“Avoid memorizing your text,” warns Gaëtan Namouric, creative strategy advisor. “I recommend breaking your presentation down into three parts, then into three subsections, giving you a total of 9 points to write down on post-its. Your pitch must fit on those post-its. Whether your pitch lasts one minute or 30 minutes, the structure is the same.”

3. What is the main takeaway I want people to have? 

“What impression do you want to leave about your company, your project, yourself?” asks Jacques Marsan. “You need to raise these questions and make sure you align your pitch accordingly. Is the main takeaway your global reach? Your humanity?”

After all, people more often than not “buy into the team, the individuals they want to work with,” says Jean-Jacques Stréliski.

4. Does my pitch arouse sufficient curiosity? 

“In the real world, it’s very rare that an agreement is concluded on the day of the pitch,” says Gaëtan Namouric. “It can be reassuring to remember that you don’t have to squeeze everything into a 5-minute pitch. You need to leave them wanting more. Bring them down a path that leads to questions and make them want to come back to you for answers.”

TOOL

Here is a checklist that can help you make sure your pitch is ready, both in terms of content and delivery.

About the author

Mélissa Proulx

About Mélissa Proulx

Editor

Mélissa Proulx is a journalist, news contributor, and copywriter. Passion and creativity have been driving her to create rich and diverse journalistic content since 2002.