Image by: anieto2k
By Mike Ventura
Every day, about five to ten times, I have an idea I’m sure will land me on the Forbes 400. I can picture myself standing in front of a boardroom packed with salivating executives, and they all want to write me an offer that looks like binary code. Then it’s off to Bora Bora with Clooney and gang to hammer out an Oscar winning farce on my life and times as a young gazillionaire.
Not bad for a day’s work
That is, if you can nail one of the hardest steps in the process of taking your business or idea to the people. The perfect pitch is so vital because it has the potential to influence others into parting with money, sometimes large amounts, on the faith that you will pay it back and then some. Whether it is a bank, a company, a complete stranger, or private investors like your Uncle Roy and Aunt Cleatus, knowing how to pitch to them is the key element in the creation of a business.
Here are some tips to help better understand the ingredients of an enticing business pitch that will have you on that beach sooner rather than later.
#1) Be the Boss
When you find yourself among a small room of powerful people, or anyone else, the last thing you want to do is give anyone a reason to not like you. So do yourself a favor and put yourself in their shoes and consider who your audience is. Even the ones who seem like they would rather be somewhere else are susceptible to a good pitch.
If you had to listen to someone else you would want to feel like that person respected your time and expertise. So by all means don’t drone on like some cheeseball T.V. salesman selling vacuums, no disrespect to vacuum salesmen by the way. Get to your point quickly and make it simple, direct, and accessible so anyone whose stomach is growling before lunch will be willing to wait an extra twenty minutes to hit Wendy’s.
The main goal is to be your harshest critic without, of course, oversimplifying or missing the point entirely. Take the one minute challenge and see how well you can describe your business in a creative and interesting way to some friends. Then compare their responses with what you had hoped to convey.
#2) Show Instead of Tell
Unless your goal is to colonize deep space, which is awesome and I hope you figure that out, chances are you can bring something tangible to the pitch. A visual aid lends more realness to your idea, especially if you are already in business to begin with. I think of Shark Tank when coming to this point. In the show, entrepreneurs vie for investments of varying amounts from five different moguls of the business world. If the business owners didn’t have something, anything to display in that room it wouldn’t be much of a show.
This is not to say that you should bank on a T.V. show to get rich, it’s just that by having something, even a well-made computer rendering, you are much more likely to get people’s attention. The goal is to stimulate the visual need to connect an idea to an end result. Your audience can then work past mental road blocks by having a concrete design to turn over in their heads.
Imagine pitching a food truck idea to a bank in hopes of getting a loan. The chances of you walking out with a cool 100K are much better if you feed everyone some of your delicious homemade, grandma’s recipe passed down from centuries old, hand breaded Braciole di Manza. Madon a Mia!
#3) Take It From Plato
Plato may have been the quintessential realist. All you have to do is learn from that sentiment. In other words don’t overact, don’t be overly dramatic or accusative, don’t be a one man high school pep rally, and don’t make extravagant claims or promises. Do make sure you have real numbers, do take the time to rehearse for anyone who is willing to sit through your speech, do spend some money on a new shirt, and do invest as much research and due diligence as you can about your business, just in case someone throws a curve ball at you.
No one is going to believe someone who looks like the guy from those “free money” commercials that come on late at night during Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns. Nor, should you try to be slicker than The Fonz.
As redundant as the saying, “Just be yourself,” is, it does have flaws. If you are not particularly enthusiastic, that will kill a pitch faster than if you had nervously farted during your intro. At least that was funny. Instead you have to find a happy medium and own it like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.
If it helps, think about the pitch like a tryout. Rehearse your lines, know your audience, project, be prepared to ad lib, and relax. A little daydreaming about Bora Bora doesn’t hurt either.