“About 20% of your time in the advertising business will be spent thinking up ads. Eighty percent will be spent protecting them. And 30% doing them over.” – Luke Sullivan
If this sounds depressing, you’re missing the point, which is simply this: Get good at pitching ideas. Lucky for you, that’s what this blog is about. You might not be Tony Robbins’ level when you’re done reading, but you can count on at least having a few strategies for improving your pitching skills. Let’s dive in.
#1. Stop Lying to Yourself
If you’ve been telling yourself you’re a bad public speaker, quit it. Seriously, stop. Public speaking skills are not a talent born to a lucky few. They can be learned.
Just because the thought of pitching an idea makes you nervous doesn’t mean you’re a bad presenter. It just means you’re a presenter who needs to practice—like all of us.
#2. Practice Like This
Since I just told you to practice, I’ll go ahead and give you some tips. After all, there’s an art to practicing. Here’s how to make sure it pays off:
- Don’t even think about memorizing it.
Seriously, don’t waste your time. Memorizing sets you up for the three Fs—Forgetting what you want to say, Fumbling through your presentation, and (worst of all) Failing to connect with your audience. (I just made those up, but they definitely happen.)
- Visualize how you see the pitch going.
Is the pitch virtual or in person? Will you shake the client’s hand? How many people will be in the room? Will you stand or sit? Athletes visualize games, so why not visualize your presentation? This is your career we’re talking about.
- Practice out loud.
Have you ever heard a word a million times but never actually said it out loud? Then, when you do, it comes out sounding like a two-year-old pronouncing spaghetti “ba-sketti.” That’s not the kind of fumble you can afford in a pitch. It kind of hurts your credibility.
- Practice the beginning.
Starting strong is critical. By human nature, your audience will begin making snap judgments about you from the moment you open your mouth. If they’re going to write you off, it will probably happen within the first few seconds. Don’t take it personally, though. We all do it. Just practice.
- Practice the ending.
Your conclusion doesn’t need to match the passion of a coach giving a pregame pep talk, but it should be definitive and distinct. Give your audience a reason to like what you just pitched, and make sure they know you’re done.
#3. Know Your Audience
The primary goal of public speaking is to connect with your audience. But you can’t do that unless you know them. So, if you’re pitching an idea to a client, a customer or your boss, research them ahead of time, listen to what they say when they arrive, notice everything they notice, strike up a conversation before the meeting if you can. Making an effort to know your audience not only helps you present more effectively, but it also makes them want to listen more closely.
#4. If You’re Still Bad at Public Speaking, Explore Ways to Get Better.
The fact is, not being able to sell your ideas is really going to hurt you in your career. But there are plenty of opportunities for learning to become a better, more confident speaker. Join a public speaking club like Toastmasters. Find an improv group in your city. Shoot—try standup.
The point is, get outside your comfort zone. Push the boundaries. It’s the only way to get better.