Planning to apply for the NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition 2015 but nervous about the pitching process? Luckily for you, our friends over at Shell LiveWIRE have given us some brilliant tips for delivering a persuasive and confident pitch. There are hundreds of articles out there that can give you tips and advice on how to deliver a winning elevator pitch about your business. ‘Be memorable’, ‘keep it short’, ‘don’t use jargon’, ‘present case studies’, ‘tell a story’, ‘practice, practice, practice!’ These are all excellent tips, but their power can be lost if you fail to deliver the content persuasively and confidently. With over 32 years of experience working with young entrepreneurs and hearing a wealth of business pitches delivered throughout the Shell LiveWIRE history, we put together some of our top tips on how to master the physical side of delivering your business pitch.
1. Separate yourself from your message (ever so briefly).
We are not who we naturally are when we’re delivering a practiced message to a group of strangers. When you’re practicing your pitch, try filming yourself, rather than practicing in front of a mirror. As your play the video back, look critically at how you’re holding yourself. If you’re new to pitching or presenting, chances are your body is quite rigid, with only the occasional hand gesture. Alternatively, maybe you’re moving around a bit more but your movements look forced. Separate yourself from your message and think about how you hold yourself when you’re talking to family or friends – odds are you’re much more open and relaxed. This is the person you want to deliver your pitch. The area made up of your shoulders, head and neck is often called the Tension Triangle because this is where we start to tense up when we’re stressed, nervous, or anxious. This can make you look visibly tense and uncomfortable. On the day of your pitch, try to picture yourself delivering your pitch to friends and family and make a conscious effort to let the tension in your shoulders and neck drop. Check out this great pitch from Tom Robinson, co-founder of Adaptavate. He looks quite relaxed and natural and it really shows in his delivery:
2. Let it out.
When we get nervous our posture, voice, and breathing can sabotage us. Our voices can shake, we close our posture down, and we start to talk fast and throw off our breathing. Pitching brings a special kind of stress – you’re trying to get someone to buy into your business, invest money in it, or just start a conversation around it. In other words, if you get it wrong there are very real consequences. Before your pitch, find somewhere you can be alone and let yourself let out a long, loud sigh, holding the sound as long as it takes to push out all of your breath. Do this a few times. The object here is to give your vocal chords a chance to warm up so you don’t begin your pitch with a croaking voice – it can also help get the shakiness out of your voice if you're especially nervous. Once you’ve got your voice warmed up and you’re waiting to go in to deliver your pitch, take a moment to remind yourself to stand up straight and take 3-5 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without even knowing it, stressful situations can cause us to roll our bodies inward into a slouch. Holding a good posture will help to open your airways – it will also make you look more confident in addition to having the psychological benefit of making you feel more confident and in control. Win-win-win.
3. Keep your hands busy.
It’s always great to have a sample of your product on hand when you pitch, but this can be tricky for service-based businesses. If a product sample isn’t possible, get yourself a prop. If you’ve developed an app that helps homeowners monitor their energy usage, bring a bagful of pound coins to demonstrate the savings your customers receive. In other words, get creative if you have to but get something in your hands. Props are fantastic in a pitch. They make you memorable and they put the product right in your audience’s face, but most importantly for our purposes, they give you something to do with your hands and they tether you to your message. When we get nervous, we do all kinds of unnatural things with our hands, like putting them in your pockets, crossing them over your chest or keeping them unnaturally stiff by your sides. Having something to hold can make your delivery more natural because you’re movements are no longer forced and you’re no longer talking about some idea that’s in your head or in a business plan – you’re talking about the thing that’s right there in your hands. This will make your movements more natural, but it will also help you stay focused on your message. If you get nervous and start to lose focus, your product/prop can bring you back around. In this pitch, you can see how much stronger Solveiga’s pitch is because she’s able to hold and demonstrate her product: Remember, the primary point of an elevator pitch is to make sure that your listeners leave with the information you want them to. This is a challenge for any business but these tips will hopefully give you the tools you need to ensure you are physically prepared to deliver the best possible pitch. For more great examples of elevator pitches, please check out the Shell LiveWIRE YouTube channel or contact the Shell LiveWIRE team, who would be happy to help you get your pitch ready.