It takes a lot of preparation to make a convincing pitch, but the presentation is just as important. Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though. If you missed last week’s post, you can jump to it here also get the pitch worksheet that will guide you through the steps. This week’s tips help you communicate all your hard work effectively decision makers.
Pitching Your Ideas Tip #1 – Know Your Audience
Right off the bat, you’ve got to understand who you are pitching to. What is their background? Are they an expert in this field? Will you have to do a lot of explaining of detailed technical pieces? What is their real interest in your idea? Have you pitched ideas to them before and what have you learned from it? Does the decision maker like a bottom line up front? Or maybe they like to be led through each piece of info and build to a conclusion? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, try doing a little research about your audience before presenting.
Pitching Your Ideas Tip #2 – Be Clear About Your Purpose
I found this really effective when I was in the Air Force, especially when briefing senior leaders. I would usually open with, “Sir, I’m Lt Col Jason LeDuc. I’m here to brief you today on this topic. I’ll recommend courses of action and ask you to decide which one to pursue.” I saw many presentations where the decision maker wasn’t clear on the purpose. The speaker didn’t make it clear they needed a decision. Many times it turned out that the briefing was just informational. Leaders are usually pretty busy people and their time is valuable. We want to make pitches when we really need them to make a decision and should avoid basic information presentations unless we’re asked for it.
Pitching Your Ideas Tip #3 – Start With the Problem
This is where all that prep work you did using the worksheet from last week pays off. Present your clearly defined problem, including the why, who, what, when, etc. Make sure that the decision maker understands the problem. Look for some recognition in their words and body language that they also believe it is a problem that needs to be solved.
Pitching Your Ideas Tip #4 – Build Your Case
Now it’s time to build the case for your solution. This can be highly variable and depends on your audience. After you state the problem, you could present background information, move into the potential solutions and make a recommendation. Or you could talk about the people who this is a problem for and how they are impacted, views of what a successful solution would look like and make some recommendations. There’s a huge number of possibilities. You’ll have to decide for yourself which approach to take, but have a plan going in. One piece of practical advice I can give is to support your assertions with evidence. If you say that your solution is going to cost $1 million, you should have some reasonable, thorough estimates that you can show in your pitch that back up that number.
Pitching Your Ideas Tip #5 – Make The Ask
All too often I’ve seen someone give a really great convincing presentation and then just kind of wrap up without really clearly asking for that decision they need. I’ve even done it myself. It’s so important to make that ask and get that decision before the decision maker leaves the room. You don’t want to put any undue pressure on them, but clearly make the ask. They may not be ready to make a decision at that point. If that’s the case you have a new ask to make. Find out what questions the decision maker needs to be answered and when they want to reschedule. Be prepared to make that secondary ask if you need to.
So there are 5 tips for making a really great pitch presentation. While these are general, they’ll help to get you in the right mindset for making a pitch. Iff you’ve done the prep work we talked about in last week’s post, you should have all the material you need to make your case. You just need to decide how to build the story that will get your message across most effectively. I know you can do it!