Do you frequently pitch for business and want to increase your conversion rates? Or perhaps you’ve never pitched before and your first big presentation is looming? Or maybe you are somewhere in between? Public Speaking Coaching can help and here’s how…
As a public speaking coach, I frequently pitch for business and a pitch that stands out is one I lost despite thinking it had gone well. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience? The company found us on the website and invited 3 presentation skills training companies in to talk about how we could help them and their teams. I felt the pitch went well and I got on with all the decision-makers, it was interactive, and they liked our unique ‘Public Speaking Monkey’ approach. But, a few days later they emailed to say we hadn’t been successful as they wanted to work with a bigger company because their business was also in the USA. I was disappointed but figured that size won! What more could I do? I posted them a monkey themed small gift and said thank you for getting to know my business.
I’m not sure what happened, and I never asked, but a few weeks later they called to say they weren’t working with the bigger business and they wanted to work with me. I was delighted. They have been a wonderful client and we worked together for many years – initially in the UK where I delivered in house training and then in the US. I even trained some of their team remotely in India. They have referred me on to other companies, so as I think about it, even 10 years later, that one pitch is leading to new business even now. Pitches are important and improving your skills and getting professional feedback on your content and delivery from a public speaking coach who practices what they preach can make all the difference to one big pitch, and all your future pitches too …and who knows where that ‘yes’ might lead?
Public speaking coaching helps grow confidence, increase your chances of winning and our clients tell us they’ve increased their conversion rates as a result.
We work with all sorts of professionals to help them influence, persuade and become a public speaker with impact. We offer public speaking training on an individual basis or in house training for teams to learn in the group environment so let us know if you want to contact us for more help. Meanwhile, we are passionate about helping you to become a better public speaker so we want to share the 7 common mistakes we see crop up again and again in our public speaking courses and show you how to avoid them.
To help you remember these in your moment of need, we use the mnemonic “M.I.S.T.A.K.E” so when you next prepare for a big pitch, you’ll know what lookout for!
Monkeys! Public Speaking Monkeys that is!
Individual – when you present be who you are – don’t try to be someone else
Story – don’t forget that as individuals we all like to hear a good story
Timing is everything – don’t run over
Action – At the end of the business pitch there should always be an action
Keep the audience centre stage – it’s not about you!
Engage the listener – keep them interested from start to finish
Do you ever hear quiet whispers or loud yelling of negative voices in your head saying things like “You’re Rubbish and Boring!” or “You’re gonna forget what to say”? Well, those are the Public Speaking Monkeys. The problem with the monkeys is that they cause a presenter to be on a Downward Spiral before they even start their pitch. These negative and destructive thoughts or Public Speaking Monkey voices must be ‘tamed’ before delivering your pitch or the presenter will suffer from nerves – either ones that show or ones that don’t and both are dangerous!
Public speaking anxieties that don’t show
If you are the kind of nervous presenter who is anxious on the inside but cool as a cucumber on the outside, then you are doing well to hide it. However, there are likely to be issues that the nerves are causing you that will impact on the success of your pitch. It’s important to ‘Tame Your Public Speaking Monkeys’ (see my book of the same name) because they lead you to:
Over or under prepare – depending on what your Public Speaking Monkeys are telling you, it may impact how long you spend on preparation. For example, if the monkey is constantly telling you “You’re Stupid!” some people react to this by over-preparing – wanting to get every word on a script so it is ‘perfect’. (Don’t get me onto how I think scripts make you false, robotic and actually more likely to make a mistake! More about that in my book High-Performance Presentations).
Under prepare a presentation – that very same monkey might be telling someone else the very same thing yelling “You’re Stupid!” whenever they think about preparing for the pitch. But instead of being
motivated they think “we’ll whatever I do it won’t be right anyway, so there’s no point”, and that looks like procrastination to the rest of the world. And of course, because they haven’t prepared, they are more likely to get asked a question they don’t know the answer to and ultimately look stupid – the very thing they wanted to avoid!
Public speaking monkeys/nerves that other people can visibly see
If this is you, or someone you know, then on top of the potential issues above you have another set of issues to deal with too. Unfortunately, it’s obvious when the person presenting is nervous. They tend to show one or more of the 17 signs of public speaking anxiety from Shaking body parts, Stuttering and Stumbling Over Words to Speaking Too Quickly. (Check out our helpful tips on how to avoid these symptoms). There are several issues with this:
a) The physical symptoms impact the clarity of your message – that makes it harder for the audience to comprehend the factual content of what you are proposing. Clarity is especially important when you are communicating a new or complex idea, service or product.
b) The visibility of the nerves gives you less presence and you look less believable – for various reasons to do with our unconscious mind, when you are nervous the audience generally mirrors you and begins to feel nervous and unsure too. Your message doesn’t sound confident and you don’t demonstrate executive presence (for more on presence read my LinkedIn article here). Your voice or intonation has elements of doubt and this will spill over into the product or idea you want to pitch. (I talk about the questioning tonality in my book High-Performance Presentations Which reduced credibility and how many professionals are unaware they are doing it until they come for public speaking coaching).
c) You may lack executive presence – the body language shown by nervous people tends to be the exact opposite to the body language of gravitas and high status. If you want the audience to follow you into a new idea or service, they naturally want to follow high-status individuals. So by not providing that reassurance, you may well be holding your team or idea back. Take a look at our blog and videos on the importance of good posture in public speaking. This may be impacting you outside of your work life too.
‘Monkeys’ that result in you not valuing yourself/ work/project highly enough
We see low self-worth again and again with public speaking coaching clients before they learn how to “Tame” their Public Speaking Monkeys. Let’s say your monkey is saying “You’re Not Good Enough!”, then pitching to win high value or high-end clients will set this monkey off! That’s because unconsciously, a part of you thinks you are ‘beneath’ them, so you’re at risk of underselling your worth and the value you bring. When you realise that these voices of doubt have no substance, then you are free to pitch and negotiate with these clients on a level playing field.
Whether your nerves are visible or not, public speaking training can help you to feel calm, confident and deliver with more clarity.
As a presenter it is important to know you own style, it is important for you to be natural, so if you are funny, bring inappropriate humour; if you are knowledgeable, bring inapplicable facts. Of course, if you have the ‘moneys’ mentioned above don’t bring those along – that isn’t WHO you are! Ensure your checklist covers these three tips:
Express your “natural” body language
Discover your “Presenter Personality Style” mix
Don’t copy the boss!
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde
A good approach when pitching for business is to tell people a true story. That can be case studies, testimonials and customer feedback stories (as long as you ensure confidentiality is never breached). Here are some top tips on good case studies and for more about delivering great case studies see our blog or learn more about our public speaking courses today.
Choose a case study depending on your audience, one they’ll associate with.
A strong public speaker tells a good tale
The human brain works based on comparison. Just saying our public speaking coaching helped a client win a bid is good, but not as good as having a before, during and after:
Once you’ve created an inspiring story use it everywhere!
How can you repurpose the hard work you’ve put in? Stories can be used in other areas too: On our website, we show “success stories” of our happy clients. We have video testimonials, written case studies, and written quotes. What can you add to your pitch, offer as evidence or promote on your website? For more information on creating a good story take a look at our blog on how to master the skill of storytelling or check out our public speaking courses today.
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller” – Steve Jobs
The next mistake to look out for when pitching is one that was a pet peeve of mine when I used to invite marketing agencies in to pitch for business…
Inevitably presenters go over their allocated slot, which is unprofessional.
And take a look at our blog on The Importance of Timekeeping and see how you can ensure you don’t overrun. And I’ve dedicated 6 pages in my latest book High-Performance Presentations to show you how to work out the timings whilst remaining flexible enough to avoid a script! (Don’t get me started on why I hate scripts!)
Unfortunately, lots of people forget to state the action at the end of their pitch. Perhaps they think it is rude to ask. But it is imperative to tell the audience what action you want them to take and how they should do it.
We come across this frequently in our training – people still think the pitch is all about them, about showing how good they or their business is. It isn’t! It’s all about the audience – in this case, the potential client or buyer.
Find out what the client wants – Whilst it is true that you do want to demonstrate your abilities, skills, and expertise, the way to do this is to find out about them. Research what the client wants. This is ideally done before the pitch presentation.
Find out what the client needs – once you understand the client’s problem you probably know how to solve it better than they do. What they think they want may not match up to what they need. Your job in the pitch is to take them through that journey – take your time if you are going to ‘sell in’ an unusual or unique approach. For example, in our one to one public speaking coaching sessions, we have a unique approach to tackling public speaking nerves and fear. On our public speaking course, we look to address the root cause of the issue and deal with people’s negative mindset or “Public Speaking Monkeys” as we call them. We know this approach works but the client rarely knows this initially! They just want a “presentation skills training course” – it’s our job when we pitch to clients to find out what they want, then offer them what they need.
Prepare by putting yourself in their shoes – Imagine you are on the other end of the table, listening to your pitch. Ask yourself the kind of questions they’ll be thinking like:
Next time you are preparing a pitch, ensure you keep the client centre stage and your ego in the wings! That will be key to influencing them and it will help them to be totally engaged with what you’re saying – after all, who doesn’t like learning about things that can help overcome our biggest problems and challenges?
Finally, you need to gain and retain the engagement of your audience all the way through your pitch. Having good flow and story to the whole pitch by using the SAS will help enormously.
The final piece of this puzzle I wanted to share before we sign off is about encouraging the listener to remain engaged throughout by using interaction and participation; make them feel a part of what you are talking about. After all, you want them to be involved once they’ve said ‘yes’, so showing them your collaborative ways of working before they say ‘yes’ might tip the scales in your favour, in addition to helping the listener stay engaged.
Many presentations are boring because they are more like a one-way lecture and less like a two-way conversation we might enjoy every day. One of the secrets to an engaging presentation is to make it more conversational, and questions help do this. But if you’ve seen people attempt questions in their presentations or pitches before and they’ve crashed into a stone wall of silence you may be a bit cautious! Fair enough! Would it be OK then if I were to show you how to ask questions effectively?
Use open and closed questions appropriately
You know what closed questions are, don’t you? Closed questions are questions that have a specific short answer, like yes or no; they are good for gaining clarity. Whereas open questions open the conversation. Open questions do not have a black and white answer – it is shades of grey or matters of opinion that form the answer. They are useful for gathering people’s thoughts and opinions and starting discussions off. As part of your preparation and practice, think about the types of questions you can include in your pitch as move through the material.
As you now know, it’s all about taking action to bring about change so what actions will you take having now read the article? How will you take these tips and techniques and begin to put them into practice? Remember to improve your speaking and presenting skills and avoid the 7 mistakes because if you don’t you may lose some pitches that you could have won and perhaps not even go for those big ones you should!
Once you’ve taken some or all the steps above then you will be delivering a great pitch (assuming your product, service, and positioning is great!) You’ll be addressing any concerns early and you’ll be showing them your personality so they know they can work with you easily.
Here’s to you and your hugely improved pitches. And of course, if you’ve resonated with some of the points above and want help or practice implementing them personally in your business then contact us by phone or email today! We’d love to hear from you.