I’ve been to a few pitching events recently, and I still see the same old stupid mistakes being made again and again. They may be innocent errors, unnoticed by most people, but each one makes me contort in my chair with painful frustration, because they’re so easily avoided yet so damaging. What are these stupid mistakes? I’m glad you asked:
- Weak start. Looking at the first slide instead of the audience, the speaker wanders to the front and shambles through a sentence that manages to omit the two vital points: why they’re here and why I should listen. Solution: don’t look at the slide, it tells us that’s where we should be looking. Which it isn’t. It’s a ‘presentation’, remember? Try presenting.
- Too much information on the slides. Here we go again. Overwhelming us with information doesn’t guarantee that we understand; in fact, it may hinder our understanding. Solution: reduce the info on the slides to an absolute minimum, and reveal each part in a sequence using the handy animation function.
- No story/characters/drama. You’ve missed a huge opportunity to engage your audience if you don’t humanise your offering. Solution: mention the people involved, the challenges they faced and the resolution to the problem you posed at the start (OK, you didn’t. But you need to). Drama of some kind, please.
- Weak finish. “…so now I’ll take any questions” is not an inspiring, motivating conclusion, and certainly not a good cue for applause. It’s a cue for an awkward silence. Good questions may follow, but omitting a solid finish feels unsatisfying for an audience, where you’re wandering over the finish line. Instead, you need to be charging through it, arms raised. Metaphorically. Solution: a short, passionate call-to-action which sums up your amazing key point and why it matters. Then you pause, smile, and say “Thank you.” Perfect finish!
Look at a speaker who you admire and copy what they do, in terms of content and delivery. You’ll notice that they keep things simple and tell some kind of story. Be smart; do the same.