How to win a pitch without saying a word
Alright, you got us. That was a bit of an oversell. Obviously you are going to speak in your pitch, but you might be surprised at how much difference you can make with factors other than what you say…
Somewhere between 50% and 70% of the information our brains take in is non-verbal so when you’re pitching it’s important to think as much about visual cues, body language and other factors as it is the actual words you say. We’re old hands now at pitching in all sorts of scenarios so here are a few tips and tricks that work for us, both in person and virtually.
If you’re pitching in person…
Make sure you’re standing. You breathe better when you stand because your diaphragm is free to move, making you sound more authoritative. It’s the reason why lots of sales people stand to sell, even when they’re on the phone and no one can see them. Also, you have more presence when you stand. You take up more space, you look like you’re in charge and you can use your whole body to support what you’re saying.
Keep your body ‘open’, so don’t fold your arms or stand behind a lectern. Try to hold your arms in an open position with your palms on display. Subconsciously, this tells your audience that you’re trustworthy and friendly and have nothing to hide. It’s probably something to do with our inner cavemen showing that they aren’t carrying a spear and are about to mug you for your newly slain woolly mammoth. It’s best not to think too hard about that maybe, but all the evidence says that open body language closes deals, so we’re sticking with it.
While you don’t want to look ‘static’ don’t move around too much or go too wild with your hand gestures as this can be distracting.
If you’re answering questions, try to mirror the person asking the question’s tone and the speed at which they talk.
Smile and try and look as though you’re enjoying yourself (even if you’re hating every moment). Not only will you put your audience at ease, but smiling gives your brain signals that you’re relaxed, too, and you’ll feel much calmer for it.
If you’re pitching virtually…
Look straight into the camera; not at your notes or at the other faces on a Zoom call. Without the eye contact you have in a face-to-face environment, online pitches can feel quite impersonal, so ensure you’re giving your audience the eye contact they need. As you would in person, keep your body language ‘open’ and welcoming.
Think about your environment. Whether you’re in the office or at home, check your background is clean and clear, with nothing to distract the viewer. Pitch audiences have a short attention span so don’t give them any excuse to mentally check out by looking at your family photos or your cat’s escapades in the background.
Do a sound check. Firstly make sure there will be no audio distractions. If you’ve got drilling going on in the road outside, consider using another room. But also check beforehand with a colleague that your mic works and the sound is nice and clear.
Use screen share thoughtfully. It’s going to be your virtual flip chart and there are great things about it - not least that your audience can get up close and personal with the information and you can interact with it, too. But it’s a good idea to flip back and forth between your camera and screen share to give your audience plenty of interaction.
Keep it slick. Use your waiting room well so there’s an informative message waiting for everyone as they arrive but you don’t have to greet them individually as they all arrive in dribs and drabs. Wait until you’re ready to begin, then make an entrance and say a warm hello. Let everyone know exactly what the format will be, when you’ll be taking questions and what time you’re going to finish. If some people want to stay on and chat to you more, that's great, but wrap up the main event at the designated time for everyone else so no one is late for another meeting. Nothing kills a great pitch like poor organisation.