What is a good pitch? How can you powerfully pitch your point?
A good pitch is the key to getting your point across. In the book Get to the Point!, Joel Schwartzberg argues that knowing how to pitch to your audience can help build rapport.
Check out these seven strategies to help keep the audience focused on your point.
Pitch Your Point Powerfully
Once you understand your audience, the next step is to make a powerful pitch. Schwartzberg argues that you must actively market your point to your audience; a casual conversation with them about it isn’t enough. He recommends seven good pitch strategies to keep yourself and your audience focused on the point you’re there to make:
1. Silence your inner critic.
- Before your presentation, recite what you’re going to say out loud until it’s ingrained in your mind. Know your material inside and out to boost your confidence.
- Take the pressure off by reminding yourself that your speech is not about you—it’s about the point you’re making.
Silencing the negative voices in your head has benefits beyond public presentations. Clinical psychologist Paul Gilbert says that regularly practicing “self-compassion” can help you relieve your suffering and amplify your empathy for others:
- Accept that your brain evolved to protect you from harm and will sometimes signal danger even when the situation you’re confronting isn’t life-threatening.
- Talk to yourself with the same kindness you’d show to a friend.
- In your head, amplify the voices of people in your life who believe in you.
2. Choose the first word you’re going to say and lead with it.
- To avoid leading your presentation with weak, meaningless words like “so,” “um,” and “well,” which convey discomfort, try “hello,” or simply introduce yourself.
- Only tell stories to warm up the audience if they illustrate the point you came to make.
When you give a good pitch, you have 60 seconds to grab your audience’s attention, gain their trust, and get them to listen to what you have to say. In addition to Schwartzberg’s advice for getting started, these five tips can help:
- Ask a rhetorical question to arouse curiosity.
- State a shocking statistic to highlight the point of your speech.
- Offer a thought-provoking quote about the point you’re making.
- Show a powerful photograph to engage imagination.
- Play a video to elicit an emotional response.
3. State your point, and the consequences of not supporting it, using clear, direct language.
- Your goal is to create a sense of urgency to compel people to action. Don’t present your point as a meandering laundry list of why it’s a nice thing that you’d like your audience to consider at their leisure.
- Make just one point per sentence to avoid splitting your audience’s attention between two or more concepts at a time.
- Eliminate unnecessary adjectives that muddle and dilute your message.
Schwartzberg says it’s critical to convey urgency to compel an audience to take action. Here are three steps you can take, when preparing for your speech, to help raise the stakes:
- List the consequences of failure to take action related to the point you plan to make.
- For each item you generate, ask: “And then what would happen?”
- Write a “raise the stake” statement that addresses the challenges you’ve identified, and use it at the beginning of your speech.
4. Project confidence.
- Phrase your point as a statement, not a question. Sounding uncertain will make the audience question you and your point.
- Don’t apologize or display insecurity, which can undermine your audience’s trust in you.
Schwartzberg points to the importance of showing your confidence verbally, but you can also display your confidence physically. Here are six tricks to project physical confidence:
- Make eye contact. It’s one of the most important indicators of confidence.
- Tilt your chin and head up.
- Stand up straight.
- Adopt a wide-legged stance.
- Keep your palms up when you gesture to project honesty.
- Don’t put your hands in your pockets or cross your arms, which can make you look nervous or defensive.
5. Eliminate physical distractions that disrupt your connection with the audience.
- Fiddling with PowerPoint clickers, pens, and water bottles turns your audience’s attention away from your point, and podiums and lecterns are physical barriers between you and your audience. Consider which tools are essential for you to present your point, then interact with them mindfully.
Presentation expert Nick Morgan argues that the key to connecting meaningfully with your audience is tapping into your authenticity, which you can do by practicing the following four behaviors before your presentation:
- Being open: Think about the feeling of openness you have when you interact with someone you trust, like your partner, a friend, or your child. Your goal is to apply this feeling to your presentation.
- Consciously deciding to connect: Recognize, focus on, and commit to connecting with your audience early and throughout your time together, so you can capture and maintain their attention.
- Being passionate: To bring your passion to the forefront, think about the highest stakes of your presentation and why your message is so important.
- Listening: Think of “listening” as paying attention to the non-verbal cues your audience will give you when you speak. Be mindful that you’ll be having a “conversation” with them as you present, even though they’re not verbally responding.
6. Speak up.
- Raising your voice projects confidence in your point and yourself, and it gives others confidence in you and what you’re saying. It also helps you slow down.
Schwartzberg notes that women sometimes express concern to him about the backlash they experience from speaking forcefully and the pressure they feel to soften their voices. He argues that the solution is recognizing that the problem lies with the person with the bias, and he stresses that women shouldn’t kowtow to the pressure they feel to be quiet.
But Schwartzberg may be minimizing the problem. Although he offers examples of women who have delivered powerful speeches to great acclaim, he neglects to note they were given before audiences inclined to support them. Other women have faced backlash as a result of raising their voices in the public sphere to make a controversial point. For example, Elizabeth Warren’s “Nevertheless, she persisted” moment became a rallying cry for women who experienced the same problem.
- Stopping briefly when you’re delivering a good pitch can give you a moment to collect your thoughts so that you can deliver them succinctly.
- You can also use pauses as a substitute for meaningless, distracting words like “um,” “ah,” “uh,” and “so.”
- Pauses allow you to build your audience’s anticipation about what’s coming next.
(Shortform note: Pausing isn’t just good for presentations; it’s also good for your health. The US Department of Veterans Affairs asserts that pausing can improve your health by reducing stress, boosting your focus and awareness, helping you maintain your interest and energy level, and decreasing injuries stemming from repetition.)