Do your pitches need some work? Do you know how to make a pitch that people will remember?
Whether you work in sales or you’re giving a presentation at work or in school, it’s important to know how to give a convincing pitch. Joel Schwartzberg’s book Get to the Point! can help you write up and present great pitches.
Here are a few tips on how to make a pitch that won’t waste anyone’s time.
Present and Drive Home Your Point
If you’ve identified and honed your point, you’re ready to market it. Schwartzberg says the single most important goal when presenting your point is learning how to make a pitch that resonates with your audience.
Step 1: Understand Your Audience
To make a strong pitch or presentation, you first have to know who your audience is and what they want from you, so you can tailor your message, language, and tone for them.
For example, if you’re giving a speech to students at an all-boys high school, your delivery and the stories you use to illustrate your point should be relevant to them, and should be different from how you’d convey your message to a roomful of female entrepreneurs. With the first group, you might take the tone of “coach” or “mentor,” while the second group would appreciate your talking to them like a peer.
Step 2: 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Stopping briefly when you’re speaking 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.)
Stay Laser-Focused on Your Point
Once you’ve driven home your point, allow nothing to distract you from it. Schwartzberg argues that your point is your grounding and guiding principle—the thing you should always come back to if you get lost or distracted.
For example, if someone challenges your point or asks you to respond to something unrelated, and you get confused or rattled, Schwartzberg recommends turning the conversation back to your point with a directive statement, such as: “Here’s the point…” or “The most important thing to focus on is…” followed by your point.
(Shortform note: Though it might seem less obvious, your physical comfort also plays a role in your level of distraction. Before your presentation, try to find out whether the room you’ll be in will have heat or air conditioning, and select your outfit accordingly; make sure you have a glass of water available in case you get thirsty; and if you absolutely must use the restroom during your presentation, be prepared to show a short video that’s relevant to your point, ask a colleague to step in momentarily to talk about a related subject, or announce that it’s time for a “comfort break.”)
Conclude by Restating Your Point
By now you know and have honed, marketed, and resolved to remain focused on your point. Schwartzberg says your final step is to close your presentation with a reminder of your point.
- Restate your point to give your audience a takeaway message and signal the end of your presentation.
- Give your audience a moment to absorb and react. Don’t muddle or weaken your final message by immediately jumping to “what’s coming up next” or directions to the reception area.
(Shortform note: Earlier, we noted that Schwartzberg recommends making just a single point in a sentence to focus your audience’s attention on one core message. However, some communications strategists assert that the “rule of three” makes ideas and concepts more memorable and interesting, in part because three is the smallest number of factors that, when combined, create a pattern.)