When do you start practicing?

Do you deliver perfect pitches every time?

We all work in the business of influence. Influencing stakeholders, colleagues, family and friends is a part of everyday life. Influencing people to back your ideas, concepts, products or services is what drives the business world whether you are a sales exec, an MD or project manager. A perfect pitch can really help.

I had a colleague who after one year as a Managing Director, following a 10-year career in sales, told me that he had pitched more in his year as an MD than he ever had over the same period of time in a sales role. Whether you are pitching yourself, your business or a new idea,  pitching is the sharpest end of influence in business – you have minutes to make the right impression, gain their trust and inspire them with your performance.

I have spent my entire career pitching in some format, and as I am sure others will agree, it’s often the activity that gets the least attention until the moment arrives but arguably the most valuable time you spend.

What Usually Happens

Quite often you know you have a pitch coming up. You want to deliver a perfect pitch, but finding the time to prepare doesn’t take priority until a few days before. By then you have already dramatically reduced your potential for a  star performance:

  • the key team members you need input from don’t have time to schedule a meeting until the morning before the pitch.
  • everyone will have to send their contributions separately.
  • there is no time to practice, rehearse timings, and
  • limited opportunity to brainstorm difficult questions.

On The Day

However, you’ve all done this before. You are a professional with significant expertise and experience in this area and the proposal is on point. You start to pitch and. without proper rehearsal, the ‘background’ section overruns, leaving you with limited time to present the core of the product. When questions are asked by the client, the team aren’t sure who should answer.

The client wouldn‘t have invited you in if you didn’t have the expertise, so the pitch is really your opportunity to show how you can work with the client. You may not get another opportunity with the client.

Poor preparation and performance is the difference between winning or losing the business. This extends to pitching your vision to the board, getting buy-in to a new project or encouraging a team member to go the extra mile.

Being ‘Pitch Perfect’ takes time and effort but it’s worth investing because it will deliver the biggest return for you professionally and for your business.
Even the most experienced of actors would never go on stage without having rehearsed the performance.  Actors know you have to lock it, rehearse it and dress rehearse it. It always takes longer than you think. Do the one thing no one else does - make time in your diary to practice, practice, practice. I guarantee you'll see a positive result.

5 Quick Tips

  1. Carve a decent time out in your diary for rehearsal
  2. Use a practice audience
  3. Make sure you speak it out loud
  4. Rehearse the timings and changeovers
  5. Prepare answers for to difficult questions or what to say if you don't know the answer

As a final thing to think about, there are few people who can turn a better phrase:

“Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

When you next have a pitch to make, remember these 5 quick tips. If they help, we'd love to know!