The era of lengthy presentations and meetings is over. The pitch, a concise speech of about five minutes, has taken over.
In just a few minutes, you need to convey your message clearly and capture the interest of your audience. Pitching seems like an art form, but deep down, you have the potential to become a true pitch master. So, how can you achieve real results? Here are 5 golden tips for presenting.
Tip 1: Use PowerPoint as a Foundation
Influence expert Michelle de Bruijn suggests building your pitch’s PowerPoint presentation using post-it notes. “When creating your presentation, you usually start with a blank PowerPoint slide. Then the staring game begins: where do you begin? It’s more effective to write your pitch on post-it notes and hang them on a wall. This way, you can build your presentation and easily move between topics as you see the narrative arc of your story right in front of you. It also forces you to express succinctly what each slide is about.”
Since you’re working in a concise manner, you should reflect this in your PowerPoint visuals. “Using too much text in your visuals distracts attention from you and your story,” she says. “Can you convey your message in your presentation using just one photo? Go for it!” “People often want to be comprehensive in a pitch, but it’s not necessary. A pitch is not a monologue; it’s the start of a dialogue. The key is to quickly get to the core and persuade others to engage in a conversation with you,” says Nathalie Mangelaars, founder of the company PitchQueen.
Tip 2: Maintain Attention
You have approximately 8 seconds before your audience’s attention starts to wane. Starting your pitch with a question can work very well. However, think carefully about the type of question you ask. When addressing a large audience, open-ended questions are often less effective. A closed question with the option for the audience to raise their hands as an answer ensures that everyone is immediately engaged.
“A visual beginning can be a great icebreaker. It captures attention and creates willingness to listen to you. It requires a bit more creativity but can be very stimulating,” says de Bruijn.
“For example, you can start with a photo that symbolizes your pitch through a metaphor, an image of a product or component that your audience is unfamiliar with. Then you can briefly engage your audience in a conversation about the photo. Once your audience is hooked, you can make the transition to your topic.”
It also works with the use of numbers and facts. Mangelaars gives an example of speaking from the perspective of a lingerie brand. “Let’s say you have a lingerie brand. You could say, ‘Did you know that 60 percent of Dutch women wear a D cup or larger?’ The number should surprise people.”
Tip 3: Prepare Thoroughly
“In the preparation phase, think about why you should be giving this pitch/presentation and not someone else. What is the connection between you and your story? Why should your audience ‘sacrifice’ their time to listen to you?” advises de Bruijn. “When you make that clear for yourself, you automatically communicate it non-verbally to your audience. You emphasize what is important through silence, tone, and body language.”
Comedian and presentation trainer Gijs Nillessen suggests giving yourself a moment of preparation for important presentations. “Check the lighting, see how the chairs are arranged.” Nillessen also considers the image you project on stage. “Sketch out your entire presentation. Create a diagram of what you say, why you say it, and what consequence it has on stage.”
Tip 4: Establish Real Connections
A speaker must build a personal relationship with people in the audience, make eye contact, and address them directly. According to Chris Anderson, owner of the TEDx format, this helps create a connection. “It works even if you are not the person the speaker is addressing.” Michelle de Bruijn confirms this. “When I ask participants in a training session what is important in a pitch, this is the first thing they mention.”
However, she observes that in practice, this rarely happens. Many speakers believe that scanning the room fleetingly helps make contact. The paradox, according to Michelle, is that due to the fleeting nature of the moment, the audience does not perceive it as a moment of connection. “That’s why it’s important to take a moment of pause when making contact. Look at someone as if you are engaged in a dialogue. Then move on to the next person in the audience.”
Tip 5: The Finishing Touch
Thinking about the start of your pitch is just as important as the closing. The latter is often overlooked, resulting in an awkward ending. “Ensure that your audience remembers you and your message. You can achieve this by using a memorable closing statement. Calling your audience to action or leaving them with a final message works well.”
Do you want to transform your pitch or presentation from a dull monologue into an inspiring experience? Discover the power of your personal style and learn to pitch and present in your own distinctive way with our training program, Powerful Pitches and Presentations.