Entrepreneurs all face those moments when we have to stand up in front of a group of potential investors, customers, or other supporters and make a pitch to convince someone that our ideas will fly. Pitch panic ensues.
For many, the scariest part of this is not worries about the idea itself, rather the process of delivering the information effectively.
For those that get clammy palms and feel a little shaky, here are a few tips to cope better with the process:
1. Prep work. Know your pitch perfectly. That does not mean memorize it. The only thing worse than presenting a memorized speech is having to listen to it. Besides, if you mess up or get lost, you look like a fool, and that's so much more likely if you rely on memorization rather than just really knowing your stuff.
2. Practice. You may have it all solidly in your head, and then when you say it out loud you realize you sound pompous, arrogant, whiney, or find yourself projecting some other sort of message you don't want to send through your tone or body language.
If possible, get people you can trust to sit through your presentation to tell you the truth. It may be a sibling, a friend or even someone who doesn't like you very much but who would be happy to tell you what doesn't work. The more feedback you have, the better you will be on the big day.
3. PowerPoint perfection. Obviously, you don't have to have a PowerPoint presentation. It may be a video, infographic, prototype or whatever will work best for your pitch. Here's the key point: It has to be an asset, not a crutch. How many presentations have you seen with a PowerPoint all lit up and the speaker a little hunched up person at a podium reading the same words you have already read on each slide? That is not a presentation: It's an attempt to test out a new form of torture. Visuals, audios and other resources are there to provide insight you can't show on your own or to make a presentation interesting, appealing or livelier. That said, use illustrative tools wisely.
4. Place partners. Pitching is much easier if you have some acquientances in the room. They may be business partners, colleagues, friends or other supporters. These cohorts can support a positive mood in the pitch meeting, give you encouraging looks and even bring up things you may have forgotten to mention. Just be sure to instruct them ahead of time that they are there for support, not a leading role.
5. Prepare for problems. Have you taken a cold, hard look at all of the issues naysayers may have in response to your pitch? Are you prepared to address any objections with the kind of specific solutions that demonstrate you have your feet firmly planted in reality? Do some exploring with people in your field to discover any potential objections and, if possible, address and dismiss them in the pitch itself. If not, practice winging it with a friend or colleague who is really good at asking those things you'd rather not discuss.
6. Pare it down. You may have a funny story about what your first customer said. But will it help sell your company to these people? If not, save it for drinks afterward. For every anecdote, statistic or descriptive element, ask the tough question: Will it help you sell your company to these people? If the answer is no, or even maybe, skip it.
7. Prioritize. You've been promised a half hour but when you walk in they tell you they're running late, and your time's been cut to 10 minutes. Do you know what to cut and what to keep? Make a plan to trim time if you need to -- it happens more often than you might think.
8. Presentation is everything. I know we've been talking about your presentation all along, but here I'm talking about everything else. How you look, dress, hold yourself as you walk into the room, shake hands, introduce yourself and whether your presentation equipment works the first time. It's your job to check out every aspect of how your potential buyers or investors view you and your organization.
9. Power through it. Own the space. Don't let them see you sweat, don't apologize and don't explain. Just go for it.