For many people, public speaking requires a lot of effort and can be very stressful. Working remotely brings additional challenges as we have to rethink our presentation methods, whether it’s with a client or for a networking event. This article offers some best practices for pitch writing and presenting.
First thing’s first: what’s a pitch?
A pitch is a presentation of a project or idea aimed at convincing an audience. It’s different from other speeches because it must provoke an action, also known as a “call to action”. The pitch is essentially a structured argument, put together by following the steps described below.
1/ Preparing the pitch
Nobody would think to run a marathon without any training. It’s the same for public speaking! The preparation phase is an essential step for a successful performance. Beatrice Doradoux, Oral Communication Trainer, suggests using her “Toblerone” preparation method.
The “Toblerone” method is made up of three elements, inspired by the chocolate bar’s unique triangular shape:
- The left corner: who am I, what defines me, who am I in relation to the audience?
- The right corner: who is my audience, am I making any assumptions about them, do I understand their needs?
- The top corner: what brings us together, beyond the pitch?
The other thing about a Toblerone is that each piece is 3-dimensional – it also has depth. This is where the name really starts to make sense! When preparing for a pitch presentation there are always two levels of depth: me and the other as people on one side, and then me and the other with each of our professional labels on the other.
Start by jotting down your ideas against each of these points to clearly define the intention and goal of your pitch.
Who am I? This seems like a really simple question, but it’s important to dig deep when answering it. What are your personality traits and the skills that you will bring to this specific context? Why did you put this pitch together? What are you trying to get out of it?
Example: I’m a graphic designer and I’m about to start working on a project with a large group. While I will of course emphasize my technical skills, in this specific context, it’s also important that I highlight my interpersonal skills: my ability to adapt to a new environment, to work with teams made up of all sorts of different people, and my ability to be organized and communicate well.
Who is my audience? Understanding who you will be speaking to will help you tailor your speech and make it unique. Another of Beatrice’s tips is to “remember that your audience is first and foremost made up of people, before being a potential client.”
Example: My audience is made up of the Design Director and the Communications Director of a large corporation. I’m going to look into these two people’s past experiences and try to find shared interests to make sure I present something that will resonate with them. These can be very simple things, like an experience abroad, a common interest in photography, etc.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours researching your audience online, and try to ensure you don’t fall into the trap of taking on new assumptions about them. Simply take some time to put yourself in your audience’s shoes to better understand how to communicate with them. Think of it like a cover letter – it’ll be more effective if it’s personalized rather than generic.
Lastly, remembering why you’re making the pitch will help you stay aligned to the purpose it should serve.
Example: My goal is to transform this client with whom I work occasionally into a regular client.
2/ Writing the pitch
Continuing with the catchy allegories, let’s take a look at Beatrice Doradoux’s “chest of drawers” writing method. The idea is simple: your pitch is your chest of drawers (where you might store clothes, for example) and the arguments you will use are the drawers within the chest.
The drawers themselves represent everything of value to your audience (skills, experience, team, availability, methods, partnerships…). For example: your fluent French, your experience building a team from scratch, your knowledge of fundraising, etc. These are great arguments that together can give your pitch a logical flow.
When you take your clothes out of the drawers to get dressed in the morning, you follow a specific order. First the pants, then the shirt, then the sweater and so on. It’s the same thing for your arguments: they must be presented in a logical order. It’s the sequence of arguments that builds a speech and makes it flow. It’s up to you to find the links between all of the points in your pitch.
During her presentation at the Malt Academy (replay available in French), Beatrice explained that you should always think about how your pitch will benefit your audience while choosing your arguments and structure. The pitch should not be useful to YOU, but to THOSE LISTENING. To ensure this, you don’t need to explain everything. Just trust your audience. The arguments you present during your pitch should be there to help you achieve your objective – all the more so when you have limited time. If your pitch is only 3 minutes long, it’s even more important to get straight to the point and avoid fluff. Once again, the pitch is not for you, but for the other person. Beatrice emphasizes this: “You have to distinguish between personal development and speaking, and not necessarily try to work on both at the same time. While one is a rather individual effort, the second only exists collectively.”
“It’s by doing that you learn”. This saying is certainly true for pitch preparation. Ruben Perez, Public Speaking Expert and also a Malt Academy speaker, confirms: “The confidence you have while presenting a pitch is acquired over time. It’s by training and practicing that you will start enjoying the exercise of pitching”. So make sure you practice your pitch, alone in front of a mirror or with your friends.
Some tips for the big day:
If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, feel free to take breaks from it and speak without referring to it at times. This will allow you to focus on the real conversation at hand and connect with the audience. As Beatrice says, “You aren’t just a voice-over.”
Once your pitch is done, remember to stay in touch with those who were present. You can send them an email in the days following to remind them of the next steps in the process. That way, they will know exactly what’s expected of them.
Last but not least, have faith in yourself and don’t forget to have fun!