Anatomy of a Pitch
Pitching is to business as it is to baseball. You can’t play without it, and it has to be good to win. Not just the premise of start-ups and salesman, marketers and entrepreneurs, the pitch is something we all need to master. The art of framing the way people see the world and then moving them to action. So how do you go about it? Let’s dissect a winning pitch — CEO Craig Walker (@cwalker123) pitching Uberconference at Techcrunch Disrupt NYC.
“Most ideas FAIL, not because they are bad ideas, but because they are Badly Presented.”
— Adrian Shaughnessy
Uberconference looks like a great service. But that on it’s own doesn’t guarantee a winning pitch. There’s an underlying bone structure that the pitch is wrapped around.
The whole pitch is less than 6 minutes. Pretty short. What’s more interesting is where the time is spent. The problem statement and the product demo were the two biggest chunks of time. A little over a minute for the former, and a little under 3 minutes for the latter. The roadmap? less than 1o seconds. Market sizing and opportunity? less than 10 seconds. That gives you some idea of where to put the emphasis in your pitch. You have a limited amount of time, and you really want to spend it on the things your audience relates to (themselves or a challenge or opportunity they have).
TIP: Think Content Hierarchy. What are the most important parts of the pitch/ presentation for my audience?
2. The Hook.
Every presentation has a hook. This was no different, and it was a great one because it was visceral. The “conference calling today” video set the stage for the presentation as it used funny examples to clearly spell out the major problem (conference calls suck) and contributing factors (Endless rounds of introductions, Noisy participants, Impossible to identify who is speaking) that this will solve for you. Note that the hook isn’t about you, or why you are here today. It’s for the audience.
TIP: Think what’s the problem I am solving for? What’s the simplest, most relate-able way to get that problem across?
3. The Meat.
The largest chunk of time was spent in showing off the service. This was the demo. The nuance here is that it was NOT a FEATURE demo. It’s a set of answers. It looked like a feature demo. Heck it probably even smelled like one. But every feature was in service to the problem. It pointed out the answer to the problem set up in the hook. Endless rounds of introductions? No problem, we’ll let the software handle that. We’ll even include social media info and bios. Noisy participants? No problem, you can see who they are and mute them. Can’t identify who is speaking? We can. We’ll put it up at the top of the page for you.
TIP: Think am I talking about you? Am I talking about what [This] can do for YOU? DO NOT USE PRODUCT OR FEATURE SPEAK.
4. The Payoff.
The claim at the close of the pitch, “The Best Conference Call System In The World. Ever.” is audacious. It’s certainly clear. I like that Craig Walker both opens and closes with it. This one line has sisters and cousins in various arts and disciplines. In screenwriting it’s a logline. In advertising it’s a tagline. In strategy it’s a vision statement. They all share a common purpose — to give you just enough, to stimulate your interest, to tease you into wanting more. The best ones say what it is, what you get, and what you’re able to do (with it) in one line. This is so simple and straightforward it passes the test.
TIP: Get across in one line what this is all about. The line must be memorable, relevant, and credible.
5. Presentation Style
I’ve looked at a couple of clips of Craig Walker presenting, and I am going to guess that he’s a storyteller. We haven’t had him take our little test, but I think that’s a good guess. He’s very comfortable speaking, and speaks about experiences that the audience can relate to. Storytellers are typically very good salesmen and can rise high in organizations. Where they typically fall down is they’re unstructured and can ramble. Craig doesn’t. He’s disciplined. That’s probably his legal background and years of being an entrepreneur that have honed that trait. He also uses his props well. There was no PowerPoint, but the video and the demo were great tentpoles in the pitch.
TIP: Think about your presentation style. Make sure that you build off your strengths, and use the props (PowerPoint, Video etc.) to complement it.
Gavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.