In my last blog, I mentioned the 5 minute video clips, I receive, every Monday, from Alan Stevens, The Media Coach. Last week, he gave advice about giving a keynote speech, with reference to William Gladstone’s “Six Rules for Speaking.”
In a career lasting over sixty years, William Ewart Gladstone, served as Britain’s Prime Minister four separate times (1868–74, 1880–85, February–July 1886 and 1892–94). Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister; he resigned for the final time when he was 84 years old and is consistently ranked as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers.
After listening, to Alan’s reference to Gladstone, about giving a good speech, it struck me that those same rules might apply, when you are pitching an idea to your co-workers, your boss or a client.
Rule 1. Use simple words and short sentences.
Rule 2. Make sure that your diction is clear.
Rule 3. Know your subject.
Rule 4. Test your argument.
Rule 5. Make sure the facts are clear.
Rule 6. Watch your audience.
Most of these are self – explanatory. If your pitch is too complicated or if you are mumbling your words, people lose interest. Speak clearly and precisely.
You need to be prepared to answer questions, so it’s essential that you know your facts. Also, this will give you confidence when making your pitch. Don’t get caught out because you haven’t done your research. If, however, you are asked something that you have no answer for, be honest, don’t try to bluff, people will see right through it. It’s far better to say you honestly don’t know, but tell them that you can find out and when you can get back to them with an answer. "Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren't comfortable answering or don't know how to answer, don't make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:
- "That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back."
- "I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it -- great suggestion."
Rule 4 suggests you test your argument on a different audience. This may not be easy, You may not want to present your idea to colleagues beforehand and your friends and partners may have no idea about how your business works, but you might be able to get someone to sit for a few minutes and listen to part of your pitch, so that you can get some kind of reaction on the way you present it.
Rule 6 is important because the way your audience is reacting, even if it’s only one person, may indicate that they are interested in what you have to say, would like more detail, have heard enough to give you a response or perhaps are even becoming bored and you have to change your approach. Another reason for watching your audience is because it is not a good idea to have your eyes down, reading from notes. Also, if you are using PowerPoint, make sure you are not turning your back and looking at your slides, have the board or any charts you are using, situated that you can glance at them, sideways, but stay facing your audience.
If you are going to use slides, make sure they are attractive, there’s nothing worse than having slides that are just a lot of print and only say exactly the same as you are. You may as well just give out photocopies of your pitch and that’s not a good idea. But, be careful not to make your slides distracting, you want them to be relevant and not take away from your message. In his publication "The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that win Business" Peter Coughter states, “The words on the screen are usually a distraction to the audience. If you’re reading the words, by the time you’ve gotten around to mouthing the words, the audience has finished reading them and is getting bored by hearing you say them.”
If you are pitching a new piece of technology or an item, make sure your pitch is interactive – give the person/people you are pitching to, something to touch or hold. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something,the more we feel ownership over it, and the more we want it.
There are other aspects to making a good pitch that are important, that will help you to be successful:
Be confident – if you show confidence in your idea, it will resonate. If you are naturally funny, include some humour in your presentation, but don’t force it. Being amusing can be engaging, if it comes naturally, but trying to crack jokes that don’t work can be really off-putting.
Be fully prepared – not just in what you are going to say, the message you want to deliver it, but the way in which it is presented. If you are using any form of technology, be it a computer, screen, Skype, make sure it’s all working beforehand.
Make sure you know the points of your pitch off by heart, just in case something should happen e.g. your technology fails, you lose your notes, you sat on your glasses – if you know the main points really well, you can use them to jolt your memory and the rest should flow from them.
Giving any sort of presentation can be nerve-wracking. Whatever you do, stay calm and keep a cool head. You thought this was a good idea, so why shouldn’t other people?