Structure Your Pitch to get a YES
So, you want to become a better presenter. What is a ‘better presenter’?
To different people, it can mean different things. It can be about having a solid logical structure, or visualizing slides to wow your audience… or maybe you want to appear more confident when you present, or field questions from the room so you don’t look silly when you jumble up your answers?
Even if you just master one of the pillars, you will see significant improvement in your presentation that will help you achieve your goal of being a ‘better presenter’.
Just like a building needs the right foundations to stand tall and proud, so does your presentation. Let’s talk about how to structure your idea to get the pitch right.
“I pitch to win”
~ Max Scherzer
First and foremost, fall out of love with your idea
We have seen many executives and managers who think their idea is ‘obviously the best solution’. As a result, their presentation became too focused about themselves and their point of view. In the process, they alienated their audience… and then some wonder why their pitch was not approved!
How can you distance yourself from your idea?
Critical thinking is in order.
Question what you know. Seek out counter-information. Ask your colleagues or another department to challenge you. The more opposing viewpoints that you expose yourself to, the more agnostic you will become about your idea.
Listen to your inner voice and feelings in the moment when you encounter evidence to see whether there’s some bias going on.
When you have become less emotionally attached to your idea, you can move to the next part: Know Your Audience.
Who are you presenting to?
If you are not able to get into your audience’s shoes, there is no way you can build the right structure for your pitch. It’s like trying to choose thetype of beam that is best for your house foundation without knowing what soil you’re building on.
Not knowing your audience, you are building your presentation ‘blind’. If you’re very lucky, your audience will smile politely with a confused or glazed look on their faces. That is a waste of everyone’s time!
So, you need to get to know them well and how they think. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your audience:
1. What are their motivations? Write down the carrots and the sticks. Perhaps they are also motivated by a higher purpose, for example, helping a cause, greater well-being, etc? Write all these down.
2. What are their hopes and fears?
3. What successes are they proud of? Where have they failed?
4. What is their persona at work? What is their work style?
Perhaps there are some things you won’t know about them. You can make an educated guess based on some broad factors like their role or position or their function. This is better than just ignoring these critical points that make up your audience.
However, the higher stakes your pitch is, you will invest more hours to nail your answers to these questions. You may have to talk to a key influencer. Or others who have presented to the audience before. You may even have to speak ask them directly!
Not only will you be getting the answers you need, you will also be improving your listening skills in the process. Not a bad ROI for the time and effort you’ve invested.
Once you get to know your audience, follow this structured plan to build your presentation that will get your audiences’ attention hooked and them listening to you all the way to the end.
Build a common ground
When you introduce the current situation, phrase any common knowledge or facts in such a way that your audience can agree to. It is one of the ways for them to feel like you understand their point of view. It’s about building emotional quotient with your audience.
Some common sentences you can use are:
“We can all agree that…”
“It is common that…”
“The current situation is…”
Be careful of your opinion disguising itself as a common knowledge or a fact!
If you are still in love with your idea, it can accidently come out in the statement. If you find this, go back to falling out of love with your idea.
When your audience agrees with your statement of the current situation, you have built a common ground and ready to walk them to the next step.
There are 100 things running through your audiences’ mind when you are presenting. They may be thinking about their next meeting, a looming deadline, or maybe some personal things. Just because they are physically present in the room, does not mean they are listening attentively.
One of the biggest frustrations that managers expressed when watching a presentation is ‘not getting to the point’.
So, get to the point and present your solution! If you really understand your audience, the solution will hit the nail on the head, and they will continue listening to you.
If possible, find a silver bullet statement that says, “When we take this action, we get this outcome”.
Why this solution?
Why not another solution?
Have you tried something else before?
Have you talked to x department before to ask what they think?
These are just some of the questions running through your audiences’ heads while listening to you. Justification is a big section, but to keep it simple, we recommend providing justifications that will answer most of the questions in your audiences’ heads. You’ll want to do it in a digestible way, of course!
They can always ask you any other questions in the Q&A – more on this in the Pillar 4 blog as part of our series.
If you’ve arrived at this spot, you’re ready to move to the second pillar. Read our next blog on visualising your presentation.