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Get Back in the Game: Regain Your Sales Presentation Skills

It’s challenging to get back on your feet after losing your touch. Failing to deliver is unacceptable when rejected sales pitches result in lost profits.

Humans are prone to mistakes and these happen with sales presentations, too. You might trip, lose your touch, and wonder how you even got there in the first place.

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While there’s no set timetable for recovery or a rock-solid formula to regaining your edge, there are three factors to assess if you want to get back in the game:

What defined your style?

Over time, presenters develop their own personal brand. These define you as a presenter.

Remember which presentation skills worked for you. Review your old PowerPoint sales presentations and identify what made them work.

Were your slide designs simplistic?

Did you share any relevant stories from personal experience? Did you connect to your audience with shared beliefs?

Find answers by looking at your past performances. Know your style, take notes on what you can improve on, and start practicing again.

How can you make yourself relevant?

Look at how successful brands sell their products through advertising.

According to Interbrand group chief executive, Chuck Brymer, effective branding techniques define what a business stands for.

Coke is a refreshing drink, Nike is for sporty go-getters, etc. They understand what their customers want and adjust their ads to stay relevant in the market.

As presenters, you also represent your company’s brand.

How you do your sales pitch reflects how your company does business with others, whether you speak professional or casually. You embody what your company stands for, so bank on those beliefs to re-establish a connection with your clients.

How can you rebuild credibility?

Successful companies stay that way is because they never compromise their core beliefs.

As cited in Jim Aitchison’s book, Cutting Edge Advertising, Avis consistently positioned its message as the number two brand for car rentals. This gave customers the impression of a hard-working company.

In order to stay relevant, companies continuously understand how their customers behave to pitch their products effectively. Take this same practice and apply them to your sales pitches. Remain consistent with what your company stands for and understand how these can relate with what your clients believe in. This builds up that relationship with promises and trust.

Regaining your edge shouldn’t be limited to these three factors. Keep practicing and trying out new ways to make yourself unique.

Focus on how you want your listeners to see you and what they’d miss if you quit.

To get that edge, call a presentation partner to help you out. All it takes is fifteen minutes.

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References

Aitchison, J. (2004). Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World’s Best Print For Brands in the 21st Century. Singapore: Prentice Hall.
Brymer, Chuck. “WHAT MAKES BRANDS GREAT?Marketing Magazine. Accessed May 11, 2015.
Sales Presentation Skills: Stay Relevant to Pitch Ideas.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 11, 2015. Accessed May 15, 2015.

How to Plan for Your Next Successful Pitch

Sharpening your presentation skills isn’t limited to preparing before the actual thing. You have to take a look at the results of your pitch, too.

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Every idea you present will affect others in some way. After every presentation, you need to look into two types of general feedback:

  • How your audience reacts as you present
  • What you did to invoke those reactions

Knowing exactly how your audience reacts will give you information on what you need to fix. Looking into these lets you sort between what your listeners like and don’t like about your performance. By gauging the quality of their feedback, you’ll know what techniques to keep and which to remove.

In fact, this method of evaluation is so crucial that companies such as Volkswagen and marketing experts like Northwestern University’s Philip Kotler (1972) highly recommend it to keep their customer relationships healthy. In his article, “A Generic Concept of Marketing,” Kotler discusses how these help gauge audience behavior and what it costs to achieve the results you want.

Attitude & Behavior-Related Responses

No matter how you present your ideas, they will affect your viewers in some way. Positive responses, such as smiling and nodding in agreement encourage better rapport between speaker and audience. Negative behavior, such as blank stares or people dozing off, might hurt your reputation in the long run.

As a presenter, monitoring audience behavior during and after your pitches can help identify points for improvement. For example:

  • Were your slide designs relevant to your content?
  • Was your information presented in an easy-to-read format?

Observing and remembering these simple reactions allow you to build your skills as you go along.

Costs and Efficiency

Preparing a PowerPoint and getting the needed information costs time, sometimes even money. While it’s true that positive results matter, you also need to consider what it took to get to that outcome. When evaluating this aspect, you can ask yourself things like:

  • Did you spend a longer time formatting content than you should have?
  • Did you have to buy any information for your presentation?
  • Was there anything you could save up on or do more efficiently next time?

As with any business, costs—time, manpower, and money—matter, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. It’s no different when making a PowerPoint to sell your services, products, and ideas. Finding out what to save up on and what to invest in can make the difference when planning for your next pitch.

Audience feedback can sometimes be so overwhelming that you don’t know where to start. However, applying these two control skills will help you clarify what you need to improve on and how to do it.

At the end of the day, considering your audiences’ reactions can give you an edge over other presenters. Using that to improve your PowerPoint will become second nature once you realize that you deal with people, too.

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References:

Kotler, P. (1972). A Generic Concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing. Vol. 36, No. 2. Retrieved from: http://www.8pic.ir/images/rommbbx28bfgpry1idn.pdf

Be a Presentation Virtuoso with Deliberate Practice

Delivering an effective presentation requires skills that you need to work on and develop. While some might seem to have a natural knack for it, no one is immediately born a great presenter. Your colleague might be more inclined to it than yourself, but excellent presentation skills still come from constantly exerting effort to improve. Just like musicians playing in concert halls and orchestras, you can’t skip steps if you really want to improve presentation skills.

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There are no shortcuts to becoming a better presenter, but there’s a way you can hone your skills and become an expert. Andrew Ng, a professor from Stanford University, wrote about this in LinkedIn Pulse. He borrowed a term called “deliberate practice,” from the field of music and sports, and elaborated how you can do the same to improve your presentation techniques.

What is deliberate practice? 

Have you seen a pianist or gymnast in practice to improve their skills? When preparing for a big rehearsal, a pianist would focus on perfecting challenging passages from his score. He will play these parts repeatedly until he can play the entire piece perfectly. A gymnast will practice her routine the same way. She will repeat specific parts of her routine until she can do the whole thing flawlessly. This is deliberate practice. You focus on the most difficult and challenging parts.

As Ng had put it in his brief article, “[deliberate practice is] hard work—you focus in every attempt, try to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and tweak your performance to make it better.”

For professionals looking to improve their public speaking, deliberate practice means setting aside time to rehearse presentations and focusing on areas that they need to improve. It could be your body language or your ability to project your voice and speak clearly. Whatever these pain points might be, you should spend at least 30 minutes in rehearsal to iron out the kinks. Do it even if you’re not preparing for a big presentation. After all, these skills play a vital role in the professional world. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, or looking for investors, improving your ability to communicate and share a message will help you go a long way. All you have to do is dedicate a few minutes of your day.

Improve your presentation skills with deliberate practice

Now that you’re familiar with deliberate practice, it’s time to put it into action. Take note of the following steps to make sure your next presentation comes out flawlessly. Repeat this process over a course of several days until you see results and are satisfied with your improvement.

Step One: Select a portion in a presentation you had difficulty with

Go over the presentation you just finished preparing or review an old you made recently. Select a short, 60-second portion that you’re having trouble with. It can be a part where you just can’t pronounce the words right, or hold yourself right on stage. It can also be a part where you’re having a hard time expounding some points eloquently.

Step Two: Record your practice

After you’ve decided, record yourself rehearsing the particular portion you chose. You can use the webcam on your laptop or the camera on your phone. Just make sure the set-up is arranged in a way that you can see and hear much of yourself in the recording.

Step Three: Take down notes

After you finish rehearsing the 60-second portion, watch your recording and take note of the parts you’d like to change. List down comments about how you would want to change how you say certain words or move in a certain way. If you think you look awkward in the recording, try to figure out why that’s so and think of ways you can improve.

Step Four: Adjust your performance

Review the notes you made and adjust your performance accordingly. Repeat your performance with the feedback you gave yourself and record the whole thing again.

Step Five: Repeat steps until you see results

Keep rehearsing the 60-second portion of your presentation until you’ve improved on all the points you took note of. Once you’re satisfied with the results, move on to a different 60-second portion that you think also needs work. Stick to this routine until you’ve covered the entire length of your presentation. If it’s possible, you can enlist the help of a friend or family member so you can receive feedback from them. This will make the whole process go a lot faster.

You can be a virtuoso in the field of presentations with some deliberate practice. Just set aside a few minutes in a day to fix the pain points you encounter when facing an audience. Follow this routine and see a marked improvement in your delivery and performance. All it takes is some hard work and determination.

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Reference:

Ng, Andrew. “Learn to Speak or Teach Better in 30 Minutes.” LinkedIn Pulse. March 20, 2014.

 

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How to Face Unexpected Presentation Scenarios

While communication, nonverbal cues, and PowerPoint design are all very crucial, there’s one thing that will help you survive any scenario when in front of an audience. That’s to expect the unexpected, especially when you think you’ve got everything planned out.

Even as you prepare for your presentation, there are certain scenarios you won’t be able to foresee. There are things that could happen beyond your control. When that happens, most people get stuck and feel like they failed.

This doesn’t have to be the case if you can adapt to your predicament. When the worst happens, it’s better to face it head on. If you can’t be flexible in front of an audience, you run the risk of stumbling and falling.

Improv actors have mastered this skill with their spontaneous skits and quick thinking. To keep your own performance sharp, here are important improvisation tips to keep in mind:

Focus on the meaning behind your script 

Obsessing too much on what you plan to say point per point can hurt you in the long run. In cases of unexpected blunders and interruptions, sticking to your script can make you feel even more lost than before.

While it’s okay to plan what you want to say, you shouldn’t focus too much on exact delivery. Instead, you should shift your focus on what each point you prepared is trying to say.

Your presentation will be a lot more flexible if you know your core message well. At the end of the day, this is what truly matters.

It doesn’t matter if you miss a few steps along the way. Your main objective is to make sure that the audience understands the main point of your presentation.

In the same light, it’s also important that you don’t focus on your slide deck as much. PowerPoint is only there to enhance the message you want to deliver, but you can’t rely on it to do all of the work.

What if the equipment fails? What if the power goes out? You need to be able to stand on your own feet without using your slides as a crutch.

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Observe your audience 

Take your cue from the people you’re communicating with. Presentations are a two-way street.

You can try to create captivating design and content, but you won’t be able to tell how the audience will receive it until you’re in front of them. As such, it’s important to watch the room for their reactions to learn how you can adjust.

Does the audience look bored? Try to mix it up by engaging them with a quick anecdote. Or maybe your discussion is dragging out too long. If that’s the case, skip some of the parts you planned and deliver all the basics. Do they seem disengaged and uninterested? Maybe you can try to reel them back in by encouraging interaction.

Shoot a question their way or ask a few of them to share their thoughts on the discussion so far.

Let your obstacles empower you 

The best way to be flexible is to make the most of the situation that’s in front of you. Instead of trying to cover up the unexpected derailment, use it as a springboard to jump back on the discussion.

All you have to do is make sure you don’t get stuck on your blunders.

Turn around a sudden interruption from the audience by saying, “thank you for that observation. I’ll get back on that once I finish the whole presentation.” If you can make light of it and add humor, you can do that too. The important thing is that you don’t let the scenario take hold of the rest of your presentation.

You can never tell how well-prepared you are until you get in front of the audience. Even then, you can end up facing something you weren’t exactly planned for.

In that case, it’s better to not let your anxiety get to you and improvise instead. You’ll be surprised that this could even lead you to a better outcome. Improve your presentation skill with these three tips.

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Reference

5 Presentation Tools to Encourage Audience Interaction.” SlideGenius, Inc. January 12, 2015. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Fine-tuning Your Presentation’s Core Message.” SlideGenius, Inc. November 11, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2015.
What Is Improv?Austin Improv Comedy Shows Classes The Hideout Theatre . Accessed January 22, 2015.

 

Featured Image: Death to the Stock Photo

PowerPoint Karaoke: Have Fun and Improve Your Presentation Skills

I’m sure you’ve tried karaoke to wind down with colleagues after a long day of work. But have you ever thought to give PowerPoint Karaoke a try?

In PowerPoint Karaoke, participants are challenged to take the stage and deliver a presentation based on slides they’ve never seen before. The rules are pretty simple. Instead of singing power ballads, participants will need to make sense of random slides, and connect it to an assigned theme. They will also be restricted by a time limit. The results are usually pretty crazy and absurd. To give you a clue, here are some slides from a PowerPoint Karaoke event held in Seattle last 2012:

 

As you can probably imagine, PowerPoint Karaoke can lead to some pretty hilarious situations. The best speakers are those who are willing to step out of their comfort zone, ready to have fun while practicing their improvisation skills. It’s the perfect game for anyone looking to deliver better and more engaging presentations.

Getting started:

If you’re ready to throw your own PowerPoint Karaoke party, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Build your PowerPoint decks beforehand. Be creative and go for slides that will challenge the participants. If you want, you can find presentations online and edit them for your use. Five to seven slides per deck will do.
  • At the event, let the participants draw for their speaking order and assigned theme. This will give everyone an even playing field, and prevent people settling for topics they’re familiar with.
  • You can decide whether you want speakers to control their own deck, or have the slides auto advance.
  • Set a time limit that’s no more than 5 minutes.
  • Decide on a winner by letting the audience vote. You can prepare forms, or just ask them to choose their favorites by show of hands.
PowerPoint Karaoke is a great activity to try with your colleagues. Gather a small group in a room and start having fun. Urge everyone to test their improvisation abilities and improve their presentation skills.

 

Featured Image: Simon Law via Flickr

Lost Impact: 4 Words to Avoid in Presentation Delivery

Remember the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me?”

It might be true for the playground, but not for your presentations.

As powerful as language is, there are certain words that seem to have lost their impact through constant use. We’ve been using them far too much in our everyday, casual conversations that they lose power once delivered on stage. Here are 4 low-impact words that you should avoid when you’re delivering your next presentation:

1. Really

We commonly use the word “really” to emphasize certain points. Casually, we might say something like, “I saw this really good movie the other day”.

But in formal settings such as business presentations, there’s often a lot at stake. If you want to emphasize something, it’s better to offer an accurate description.

Instead of saying “our new product is really revolutionary,” you can share a concrete example or supporting evidence instead. “Our new product has proven results and made plenty of sales in the past year” would sound more impressive than giving a vague suggestion of how good your product really is.

2. Amazing

You often hear the word “amazing” when describing something high-quality. For example, you might have heard it casually used in sentences like, “the new iPhone 6 is amazing.”

Again, it’s better to offer your audience something more descriptive. Let them deduce that what you’re presenting is amazing for themselves. Help them come to that realization by showing them specific details and examples. In our given instance, you could give the features of an iPhone that other phones wouldn’t be able to compare with. This would certainly be more impressing than simply saying it’s amazing.

3. Maybe

You don’t want to seem uncertain in front of your audience. To deliver a memorable presentation, you need to exude knowledge and confidence.

Words like “perhaps” and “maybe” leave the opposite impression, making you seem completely unsure and unprepared. Stop hedging and go straight to the point with active and urgent language.

4. Stuff

This word offers no real description. It’s a vague way to refer to something that’s crucial to your presentation. Instead of using this, look for a word that actively describes what you’re trying to say. If you can’t think of one, go for a descriptive phrase. Be specific with everything you say to allow your audience the opportunity to recall and internalize your main points.

Get rid of the “fluff” and make your presentations stronger. Achieve that goal by making use of words that are tangible and concrete. Avoid these 4 words and give your audience information that’s more meaningful and memorable.

 

Featured Image: marc falardeau via Flickr

Presentation Skills: Handling Questions with Grace and Authority

One of the presentation skills you’ll need to master is responding to questions effectively. Some presenters dread getting questions because they’re scared that someone will bring up a point they can’t address. Because of this apprehension, they may come across as defensive, unknowingly creating a communication barrier.

Your presentation skills will greatly improve if you accept that questions are an essential part of any form of communication. Individuals take in and process information differently. No matter how much preparation you put into your presentation, it’s perfectly natural that a few people would want some points clarified.

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Why it’s Important

It’s not because you were unclear or because your audience simply can’t understand where you’re coming from.

According to keynote speaker Anne Loehr, instances like perception gaps can skewer your presentation, and have an opportunity to correct that is actually good for you.

Don’t feel burdened by questions from your audience. Your presentation skills will greatly improve if you learn how to handle them with grace and authority. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Learn what questions to anticipate

As you prepare for your presentation, make a list of questions that you think people are going to ask. If you know your topic well and you’re familiar with your audience, you can easily tell the type of questions that could come up. Common inquiries revolve around “What comes next” and “What has to be done?”

If you’re pitching to investors or prospects, it’s also common to have your weaker points scrutinized. Try to address these concerns before they are brought up. Make sure your presentation provides sufficient data, strong examples, and concrete action plans.

2. Establish the rules

Most speakers are anxious about questions because it makes them feel like they’re losing control over their own presentations. That doesn’t have to be the case if you clearly establish how and when you’re going to take questions. Set a specific schedule and let your audience know about it in the beginning of your presentation.

3. Listen carefully and repeat what was said

Effective communication isn’t about talking all the time. Your presentation skills also rely on being able to listen carefully to your audience. When someone makes an inquiry, make sure you listen to it attentively and rephrase it to make sure you understand it well. Don’t automatically assume what the question is going to be about and jump to answer it. Clarify if you have to.

4. Give a concise answer

You’re already running on limited time as it is, so don’t waste any more by giving a long, complicated answer. Keep your answers brief and straight to the point. That way, you’ll have more time to clarify points that others might have.

You should also make sure that the answer you gave is what your audience is looking for by saying something like “Does that answer your question?” or “Hopefully that addresses your concerns.” If a question requires a more in-depth answer, offer to provide additional information through a follow-up email.

5. Be truthful and sincere

If someone asks you a difficult question, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have the answer. It’s better to be truthful and sincere than explaining half-baked ideas. Assure your audience that you’ll do additional research on that point and follow through on your promise. Take note of these questions and personally reach out to the audience members who brought them up once you’ve checked for the answer.

6. Don’t play the blame game

It’s important that you take responsibility for the information you present and avoid blaming errors on others. If someone brings up a point that counters what you presented, acknowledge it calmly and move on. Don’t shift the blame because you want to maintain authority. It will come across as unprofessional and your audience will more likely feel turned off by it.

7. Rephrase aggressive questions

Similarly, there might also be an instance where someone from the audience jeers you with an aggressive question. When this happens, don’t lose your composure by answering in a similar way. Instead, neutralize the question by rephrasing it.

Think of your presentations as a conversation. After you’ve addressed the audience, it’s their turn to ask questions or give their input. Make an effort to hear their side by encouraging them to ask questions.

Sharpen your presentation skills by responding to audience queries with grace and authority. You’ll find that having the opportunity to clarify some of your points is actually helpful in the long run.

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Featured Image: David Goehring via Flickr

How the World Cup Can Help Improve Your Presentation Skills

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is now down to the semifinals. Four teams will be fighting for two final spots in perhaps the biggest sports event this summer. As you make your bets and sort out your predictions, we’ve also made our own little list. It may seem odd, but there’s definitely an intersection between soccer and presentation.

We’ve compiled a few valuable lessons to help improve your presentation skills — all picked up from the heart-stopping games in Brazil.

Practice pays off

Improving your presentation skills can make you a champ
Image by Christopher Johnson

Athletes dedicate a lot of time to training and practice. They also make sure to warm-up before the start of every game. Likewise, your presentation skills will greatly improve with some extra effort. You don’t have to dedicate your entire life to improving your craft, but you do need to allocate a significant amount of time for preparation.

Presentation expert Garr Reynolds suggests asking yourself these questions before you even think of opening PowerPoint:

  • What is the purpose of your presentation?
  • Why were asked to speak?
  • What does your audience expect?
  • What are the most important parts of your topic that you want your audience to remember?

Answering these key questions will help navigate your content to a clear and sound structure.

Another important step in preparation is to practice the entirety of your presentation. After you’ve perfected your content and slide design, take the time to rehearse everything you plan to do and say. You don’t have to memorize your speech, but you do have to learn how your presentation may go when the big day comes.

Keep the audience on the edge of their seats

Before winning a spot in the semis, Holland had to face off with Costa Rica. Even after the regulated 90 minutes, plus 30 minutes of extra time, neither team allowed the other to score a goal. The deadlock caused a lot of excitement and anxiety in the crowd, who spent most of the game jumping and cheering in their seats.

While having people stand on their seats isn’t necessary and may even be inappropriate in your presentation, create the same atmosphere of engagement and interest. Knowing your audience and anticipating what they want is a valuable addition to your presentation skills.

Prepare your presentation with the audience in mind. Enhance great content and delivery with interesting PowerPoint designs.

Establish a goal

Goals are hard to come by in soccer games, but the satisfaction for both players and spectators are priceless. This was particularly the case during the Round of 16 matches between Belgium and the US. American goalkeeper Tim Howard saved a record number of goals, but his strong defense was breached by Belgium twice.

World Cup goals by Mashable
Infographic from Mashable

The goal of your presentation doesn’t have to be as hard fought as Belgium’s, but you do need to have it established as soon as you start. It’s important that you let your audience know the primary purpose of your presentation. Not only does it help you emphasize your message, it also makes it easier for them to act on your plan of action.

Win them over with passion

Create an atmosphere of excitement and engagement like the one in the World Cup 2014 stadium.
Image by Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons

There’s inspiration to be found everywhere, especially when it comes to improving your presentation skills. Who would’ve thought that you can pick up a thing or two from the World Cup? There’s always great fervor in the World Cup stadium, and the same thing should be said in your presentation.

There’s always great fervor in the World Cup stadium, and the same thing should be said in your presentation.

Win over your colleagues, clients, or investors with a powerful and compelling story. Show how passionate and driven you are about the topic or idea you’re presenting, and your audience is more likely to feel the same way.

Becoming a better presenter is hard work, but you’ll be reaping its benefits in the end — just like an athlete would, when all the years of training lead to an important victory.

 

 

References

Organization & Preparation Tips.” Garr Reynolds Official Site. Accessed July 8, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons

4 Steps to Mastering the Elevator Pitch

The idea behind the elevator pitch is said to have originated from businessmen who needed to pitch proposals to prospective investors as quickly as possible.

Incidentally, it also gives the investors a chance to turn down ideas promptly (especially those that are not that good or do not match their investment profile). The fast paced delivery indeed works well for both parties. If you have a plan to acquire funds from a potential investor, mastering the art of the elevator pitch will definitely work to your advantage.

In his Forbes article, Rick Frasch already provides the eight mistakes entrepreneurs need to avoid in their elevator pitch. Now here are four tips from us on how to get it right:

1. Establish your story

Set aside a time to write your story, preferably without interruptions. When you write, visualize that you’re telling the story to a family member or a close friend. This can help you put your mind at ease.

Write anything relevant to your ideas. Don’t forget to silence your inner critic and not edit just yet.

2. Let it sit for some time

Once you are done with your pitch’s rough draft, go and do something else. You may want to go for a walk or drive around the neighborhood.

The idea is to let the story sit for a day or two so you’ll have a fresh perspective when you read and work on it again.

3. Polish your hook

Start editing down your story to its barest essential. Your goal is to craft a killer 60-second elevator pitch. While you’re at it, think about adding a good hook.

The hook is the part that will let you jumpstart your pitch. It should be about 15 seconds long. This is important because those 15 seconds are your only chance to convince your prospect to listen to the rest of the pitch.

Add an element of curiosity to your hook. You may choose to start with engaging phrases such as “What if…” or “Picture this…” At this point, you should have you prospect intrigued.

4. Explain what’s in it for them

Now that you have the attention of your prospective investor, it’s time to key in on engaging the audience. Persuade your listeners into actually investing by explaining how your idea can bring in profits. P

Prove that there’s a market for it and that your solution is something that customers would be willing to pay for. Close your pitch by creating a sense of urgency.

Whether your product is only available during the Holidays or you’re racing with a rival in filing a patent, use urgency to motivate, not force people to invest.

The Final Word

Spend enough time practicing your pitch. Time yourself as your practice. Make sure that you can say whatever you need to say within the 60-second limit.

The key to a great elevator pitch is not just to pitch in a rapid-fire approach. Even if you can’t deliver a mile a minute speech, you would still be able to impress your audience.

And most importantly, memorize your lines. If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, do not read from the slides. Investors can sense if you’re not ready and just winging it, so practice extensively to perfect that pitch.

 

Reference

Frasch, Rick. “8 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching To Investors.” Forbes. Accessed June 10, 2014.