Paul Carroll, a mentor at Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills, shares his top tips to help you deliver a killer pitch. 

When you give a presentation time is usually tight and this can feel like a major problem when you are deciding what to include, especially if you have an exciting technical development to talk about. As a founder, you’re also likely to be passionate about your business, but it’s difficult to get the right balance, making sure that your passion comes across without seeming like you’re rambling on.

It’s important to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Too much information may overwhelm people. To avoid this, you need to decide which details and examples are essential to achieve the purpose of your presentation.

Here are some tips for giving a successful presentation and delivering the right level of information at the right moment:

Know your audience

If you’re speaking to long-term clients, make sure you’ve done your homework. Keep track of what they’ve asked for in the past, what they’ve complained about and any sticky points that have arisen during negotiations. Having said this, it’s also important that you keep note of the positives and remember how you managed to close deals without much negotiation.

When addressing new people (e.g. potential clients) do your research. Learn what they want. Learn about their capacity: what can they realistically afford to buy from you? What regulatory constraints do they have? Know their market and find out which of your competitors they already do business with.

Speak actively

Don’t underestimate the power of language. When you listen to people who are trying to persuade you how often do they use active language? Do they say “I’ll do this and you do that”? Or do they say “This should be done” and leave unclear who is the doer? If something needs fixing do they own up and say “We got this wrong” or do they say “Mistakes were made”? In each case, the first is clearer.

Have a clear message

Understand what you want to get across and remove any unnecessary details that detract from your key message.

Take a page out of Steve Job’s book. When Apple’s legendary co-founder introduced the original iPod, he summarised the offer in no more than seven words: “It’s a thousand songs in your pocket”. Keep it simple and grab your audience’s attention!

Decide what to leave out

Presentations can be long and your audience may struggle to digest the bulk of information you deliver. For that reason, consider outlining your key talking points at the beginning, so that your audience knows exactly what to expect. As you prepare the body of the talk, keep asking yourself: is this fact necessary for understanding what follows? If not, leave it out!

Decide what to include

Some details are not superfluous and although it’s often difficult to tell which are, use any Q&A time you get with your audience as feedback. Any specific questions asked following your talk should help you guide future presentations and give you a better idea of what people need and want to know more about. Take this feedback on board and incorporate it into your outline.

This isn’t meant to be easy. Gathering information about your projects and clients will take some time, but doing so will help you deliver a clear and direct pitch and prove beneficial in the long-term.

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