This week I’m thinking a lot about pitching style. Recently I was lucky enough to be selected as a finalist in the disruptive pitch series in which founders pitch their businesses Dragons’ Den-style to a group of industry experts.
Having made it to the final, I spent the morning with Neil, the judge who selected me for the final, and got some great feedback on our pitch and what I need to do to take it forward.
All of this reminded me just how important your pitching style is, not just for competitions like this, and not just for business, but for everyday life. It also made me realise just how difficult it is to make a really great pitch, and how a different kind of thinking is needed.
It was when Neil was briefing me on the art of pitching that I realised that whenever I meet someone, whether it’s in business, socially, at the dentist or in the gym, to some extent I need to pitch them. I don’t mean that I need to sell them something of course, but I need to make a connection with them, to find out why they should be interested in me and what we should do next.
It was only when I broke down the whole concept of the pitch to these very simple steps that I realised that these are essential for any conversation. You need to get the person you’re speaking to interested, you need to communicate whatever it is that is the subject of the communication – from a business transaction to a football score – and you need a clear next step.
What first struck me about this was how I’m often not clear myself, when I communicate with someone, what exactly it is I want to achieve in that conversation. It’s often clear enough at a big picture level: I’m “building a relationship”, “engaging about a future project” or “finding out if they’re interested in working with us”. But at a precise conversation level, am I clear enough about why they should talk to me, what we’re talking about and what the outcome should be?
Three key elements to a good pitching style
So from my coaching session I picked out three key elements of the pitch which I need to make sure are there in every interaction.
(1) The hook – a way to get the listener interested within the vital first few seconds when a first impression is formed
(2) The content – the key information they need to understand whether this is something that’s interesting to them
(3) The call to action – the clear next thing that the listener must do in order to engage with the speaker
It sounds a bit “business bore” to think of framing every conversation that I have in these terms, and that’s certainly not how I greet my family when I walk in the door! But when I thought of how to pitch the idea of doing some maths homework with me on Saturday to my nine year-old, I found that framing it in these terms was incredibly useful – mainly because it forced me to think about the whole thing that I was pitching from her point of view, not mine.
The hook isn’t the thing that gets me interested, it’s the thing that gets her interested – in this case “hey mum, said you wanted to see if you could get faster at your fractions so that you can have more fun in maths lessons, is that right?” It went far better than I thought, and I now have a daughter who can’t wait for the next fractions session – so I’m frantically reading up to stay ahead of her.
More and more I’m realising that the tools and techniques I’m finding so useful in the world of startups are also incredibly useful in the rest of my life – and I’m taking them out of the office and into the world and getting great results with them there. To this end, I’ve started to capture these ideas at Startuptoolsforlife.com, where I hope to explore more ideas like this and get feedback on them. I look forward to sharing the findings with you all too.