How does this happen? When you present, what do you do that could cause this? And how can you reduce or remove these tripwires from your presentation, thereby increasing your chances of getting your idea accepted?
Let’s start with how things get disrupted. Imagine your pitch, traveling down an invisible phone line from your mind to your audience’s mind. What you’d like, ideally is for the line to be really clear, no crackles or disturbances. This means that your audience can question the idea, disagree with any aspect of it and you can respond, because you’re both clear on what that idea is and where the difference of opinion lies.
Here’s the problem. When you pitch an idea ‘disruptively’, you behave in a way that inadvertently creates a noisy line. Your behaviour disrupts your message. An added complication is that it’s possible for neither party to be aware that this is happening. This explains why bad news is often a surprise. And why potentially great ideas are rejected.
The good news is that because you create your own crackle, you can also remove it, restoring the clarity of connection with your audience.
Here are some of the most common ways to create a noisy line and a fix in each case:
- You get lost in your idea: you talk to the idea, rather than your audience. You may even momentarily forget they’re there. You may talk to yourself, make an aside. The connection with your audience is lost at these moments.
The fix: Separate the idea and your pitch. And spend time on how you convert one into the other, whilst thinking about what your audience needs. You’ve already bought the idea. You don’t want to go home with it.
- You interact with your own presentation: you point at your slides. You turn away from your audience to look at the slides. This again excludes your audience and breaks the connection. No matter how attractive the back of your head is, it won’t win a pitch for you.
The fix: Don’t look at your slides. Know the order in which they come. Know what’s on them. If you have to point something out on a slide, your slide is too complicated. Which leads to my next point….
- You apologise: for something. It could be anything. Could be tech related, wrong cables etc. It could be because you find yourself rushing through the slides, or because the slide is very detailed… .the list goes on. Your audience probably hasn’t noticed what you’re apologising for.
The fix: Think about all the ways you find to apologise and do something that enables you to not need to. Eventually, you’ll run out of list and you’ll stop apologising.
- You umm, uhhh or use the same word on a regular basis: You won’t notice these. Your client may not consciously notice them either. But your ‘filler words’ will unconsciously create hiss and crackle on the line.
The fix: Ask a colleague or friend to listen to you present. Ask them to look out for your filler words and tell you what they are. Replace them with a pause. This will make your presentation more spacious and give your audience some space to think. Talking of which……
- You rush: You start slow and then get faster after the midway point. You see the finish in sight and dash for the line. But, your audience has been following, has got into your pace. When you change gear, you can lose them.
The fix: Create a momentary pause midway through your pitch where you can take a breather. “I’m just going to pause here. What thoughts do you have so far?” is a good way to announce this. Then you can cap the discussion and move off. You’ll be starting again which will turn your sprint finish into a graceful glide.
Rather like an ad, your pitch is how you package your idea in the time you have been given, to convey the clearest impression. And this takes work. When you’ve finished the idea, you’ve only done half the job at best. The next piece of work is to decide how to pitch it.
What do you think? What works for you and what gets in your way when it comes to pitch presentations? Feel free to make a comment below or drop me a message.
Thanks for reading this piece. You’ll find a recommended reading list for how to make great pitch presentations here.