You’ll be presenting your idea at an important forum meeting. It might be pitching your startup to an investor or design partner. Perhaps you’ll be sharing a new initiative with management. Or, is it your research you’ll be proposing to a major grant committee? Maybe you volunteer at a non-profit, and you’re meeting people who are contemplating joining. What do all these scenarios have in common? The fact that (you might be more than a bit jittery, and) there’s something you want to share with an identified audience for a distinct purpose. The keys to getting your message across effectively in these – and essentially all – scenarios are customisation and clarity. Here are five questions to ask yourself (then answer and execute accordingly) to ensure your pitch is both customised and clear.
One of the most fundamental questions for customising your communication is: who will you be addressing? Does the audience share your professional background, or should you make the discipline-specific terminology more accessible? Are they internally homogeneous or diverse in terms of domain expertise? Local or international? Already supporters of your idea, new to it or potentially opposed? The more relevant business intelligence you can obtain in advance, the better you can tailor your pitch, so they receive the most pertinent information from you, delivered appropriately. The result? Much more comprehension and absorption.
Define (or find out) what’s the purpose of this gathering. Networking? Fundraising? Exchanging knowledge and branding speakers as experts? You want to be sure you and your audience are on the same page about why you’re all here. You don’t want to pitch assuming it’s a funding forum only to discover that your audience came to network… Sometimes it’s obvious what this gathering is for. But when unclear, make it your business to find out in advance so you can align. And when you’ve initiated the session (think: team meeting), share early on why we’re here now and what we’ll be achieving together, to bring everyone onboard.
After you’ve got clarity on Who and What it’s for, you’re ready to turn on your MIC: Messages, Illustrations and Call to Action.
Imagine the end of your talk. Your audience leaves the room, calls a colleague and tells them: “I just heard (your name) and s/he said that…” – what would the end of that sentence be, which for you would constitute success? There’s your main message. The top priority from your perspective, for this audience and occasion. Let’s be realistic: they won’t remember everything you share. The best you can hope for is to deliver the most important reason you’re here.
For this target audience, what would most vividly demonstrate what you mean by that message? A personal story? A data point distilling the scope of the problem you’re addressing? A trusted industry leader quote confirming the market trend you’re describing? An analogy, comparing the unfamiliar mechanism of this innovation to one with which the audience is familiar in a different realm? You can feature authentic stories, contextualised data points, authoritative quotes and explanatory analogies both as grabbing openings to your talks as well as examples provided alongside your messages. Just choose them with the specific audience in mind.
Instead of ending: “Thanks! Questions?”, guide your audience to specific next steps. If this is an audience towards whom you have authority, such as your team, state what they need to do next: “for Thursday, please send me the reports…”. But in many cases, our audiences are entirely voluntary, in which case we can warmly invite them to take action, pursuant to what we’ve just shared. Think back to question #2: “What is it for?” Were you presenting to investors to fundraise? Super. Conclude by sharing how much you’re currently raising for what use of proceeds. Telling people about the important work of a non-profit so they can get involved? Great. Show them how they can take part: here’s where and when to volunteer; here’s the account for donations; here are the social channels to spread the word. Rather than assuming the audience knows what to do next, invite and guide them so they know exactly what to do if they so choose.
And how will you be truly ready for your big pitch? Practice, of course. Be open to helpful suggestions from experienced mentors (of the sort the FS community is very lucky to be introduced to through the Entrepreneurship Centre among myriad supportive services) and be your public authentic self in the moment. Best of success!
Dafna’s profile: Yael Ilan
Workshop photo: Maya Hadash – Israel-Asia Center