Pitching is About Listening Not Talking

While I might not be an expert, I'm certainly no beginner. Over the years I have done quite a lot of pitching. I've won a number of competitions including: 'The Pitch' a UK wide pitching competition, "The EDGE" competition winning £50,000 funding, and raising £150,000 seed funding from angel investors.

After a substantial amount of practising, I thought you might enjoy learning some of my pitching insights.

To start with... pitching is the skill to clearly communicate information verbally. Great pitching is the art of making that information exciting and motivational.

Pitching doesn't just happen on stage to an audience, it's a skill you use every day in negotiations, meetings, discussions even just to share your point of view in friendly conversations.

Counterintuitively pitching is more about listening than talking. A great example of this is street sellers in foreign countries. You and your friends, or family are walking along and the street seller wants to flog you something, the first thing they do is to listen to your conversation and then try and speak to you in your language. It's quite fascinating to watch. On a busy market street in Tunisia I observed a salesman pitch his wares in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

What is the message here? Pitching to sell a product / idea in the wrong language and you will be ignored. While I chose international languages as a stark example it's the same within one specific language.

To communicate effectively you must discover the style of communication that the other party uses. For instance a Savills negotiator selling a £5m house will have a different communication style to someone selling fruit and vegetables in a market stall.

Style of communication covers a wide range of nuances from tone of voice, intonation, to accent and volume. Do not underestimate the significance of this, trying to communicate in the wrong style and you may as well be speaking Russian to a Frenchman (one that doesn't speak Russian).

Now that the channel of communication is open, it's time to talk about content. Here once again the ratio of two ears one mouth comes back into play.

  • Step one: is to clarify your objective, what is it that you want to communicate, or to achieve.

For instance imagine that you are on holiday with your partner and you're incredibly hungry, you want to go have some food. Your partner is not responding at all well to your communications that you need to eat. Communication is breaking down and things are heading towards as full blown argument, a failed pitch.

  • Step two: understand the objective of your audience. What is it that they want to learn, accomplish, achieve? This may take some investigative work, unfortunately people in general are rarely good at knowing what they want, and even worse at communicating it.

After some listening, open questions and other research tools you've identified that your audience / your partner wants to see the sites and get an authentic local experience.

  • Step three: Communicate your objective in a form that meets the objective of the audience. How can you communicate your information framed in a way that your audience will engage with it, take it in and really listen.

You want to eat, they want an authentic local experience. Look for common ground to communicate your objectives around a subject that they will engage with. For instance I've read about a small restaurant that serves a local delicacy that you can only experience in this one part of the world.

  • Step four: this is the master stroke in good pitching, don't present the information that you want your audience to hear. Present the information that they want to hear with your message contained within it. Great pitching is conveyed in a narrative that they audience engage with, because they are interested in it, that narrative must also contain the message that you want to convey.

I know you're really keen to see the sites and get an authentic feel for the city, can we start by going to this unique restaurant it's were they invented this local delicacy and is apparently the best place in the world for it, while we're there we can plan out what else to see and ask the locals for some recommendations!

This will be better received than, lets get food I don't want to go and see a damn museum.

While the above example is set in a conversation the principles are the same for a sales meeting, a funding pitching, even interviewing a potential star employee.

To summarise...

Find a common language then:

1. understand your objective

2. understand their objective

3. find common purpose

4. clearly explain how you can meet their objective

There is a lot more to learn in the form of how to make a pitch: concise, impactful, memorable, exciting, but the above process is the basics on how to communicate effective content.

My final parting thought would be: people don't have a great concentration span, if possible stay focused on communicating only one thing, meeting their core objective (which is also your own).

Where possible produce evidence, and make sure every piece of evidence relates to solving their objective.

Have fun trying out the above method and do let me know how you get on, I'm keen to hear your improvements!

#business

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