If your business or personal success depends upon influencing listeners, you should watch David Rose's ("The Pitch Coach") TED Talk entitled "10 Things to Know Before You Pitch a VC." Don't worry if you're not seeking funding from an angel or a venture capitalist (though if you are, you should certainly watch the presentation). The principles and public speaking tips this speaker offers are insightful, refreshing, and precisely on point concerning brisk and persuasive speaking.
(To learn how to strongly engage and motivate listeners, download our cheat sheet, "5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.")
Rose is a rapid-fire speaker, the kind whose spoken words seem constantly to be trying to catch up to his thinking. But his advice is sound, since according to this presentation, he has both raised millions and invested millions in the game of entrepreneurs seeking funding. When it comes to public speaking for entrepreneurs, in fact, his delivery style matches his message of "don't waste anybody's time when you enter this arena."
You Are the Message
Rose shares Roger Ailes's view that "you are the message" when you speak. (Ailes, in fact, wrote a book by that title.) "What is the single most important thing the VC is going to be investigating?" he asks, and answers: "You." The entire purpose of the pitch, he says, is to convince the investors that YOU are the entrepreneur they should invest in who is going to make them a lot of money in return.
At The Genard Method, we've always operated on the same principle in our speech coaching and corporate training—helping clients understand that their presence and the story they tell are far more engaging and persuasive than the delivery of sheer information. And that goes for every type of speaking from educating or motivating listeners, to vote-getting and sales pitches.
You achieve this result through honesty and truly serving the needs of your listeners rather than yourself. That means thinking first of your audience and their desires and needs, and then of the information you will present. Do you prepare a presentation this way? If not, try it: do an audience analysis, then write a clear specific purpose (using an infinitive form of a verb helps). At that point decide on the content you need to present to achieve your purpose.
Take Your Audience on an Emotional Journey
One of the ways this works is through the use of emotion, sometimes a "bad word" in business presentations. As Rose reminds us, however, "all pitches and sales presentations are emotional on some level." And not only pitches: whenever you want to move, motivate, or inspire your audience, you must consciously use emotion to reach the hearts as well as the minds of your listeners.
If you take your audience on an emotional journey, they will not only arrive at your destination the same moment you do; they will also retain your key message more strongly. After all, audience members seldom remember the facts and figures you present, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Capturing an audience's emotional attention should also be done quickly. According to Rose, most angel pitches are about 15 minutes in length, and most venture capital pitches should be less than half an hour. Given those abbreviated time frames, you have to capture an audience's attention rapidly, within the first 10 to 30 seconds. Fortunately, there are some foolproof ways to grab your audience's attention. As Rose puts it, your presentation has to start out like a rocket. From there, the trajectory must be a straight upward path, with proof following proof, until you reach the end and your listeners are ready to write you a check.
Sound good? If you're not actually an entrepreneur delivering a VC or angel pitch, your payoff will be the influence you achieve with your audience, and the action you lead them to. "Launch" your presentation strongly and you have a good chance of being successful. Any rocket that stays on the launch pad, however, has no chance of spearheading a successful mission.
The 10 Most Importants Elements of Your Pitch
Once you've done these things—launched strongly, and started taking your audience on an emotional journey while presenting information shaped to meet their needs—you're ready for Rose's 10 elements of a successful pitch. The elements, in order of importance are:
- Passion ("Putting your life blood into what you're doing.")
- Coachability (the ability to listen).
As a speech coach, I can certainly identify with that last item on the list. As Rose, says, "Angels and VCs have a lot of experience, and they want to know you're willing to hear that experience."
Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs: Who's the More Dynamic Speaker for Business?
Rose makes one final point which won't surprise many people. It also dovetails nicely with his focus on hard-hitting impactful presentations for persuasive speaking. It concerns the difference in the speaking styles of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
We're all familiar with the deadening effect of bullet point-laden PowerPoint presentations. Rose is a speaker who lives in the camp we might call "Why verbalize at all in PowerPoint?" Short bullet points are "good"; though just the headline is "better." But best of all is only images, since that brings the focus of listeners back to you—the person who is going to make your listeners a lot of money.
As an example, he points to Steve Jobs's nearly text-free presentations, versus Bill Gates's bullet-pointed PowerPoint style. A solid pitch should be spare, zen-like. It should also weave your story and your visual presentation together, and include some audience-centered PowerPoint techniques. The zen-like definition might have been written for Jobs's style of presenting. In contrast, we see a screen-shot of Bill Gates standing in front of . . . you guessed it, a PowerPoint slide populated with bullets. See the contrast, and David Rose's complete presentation here:
Takeaways from this blog:
- For pitches and all persuasive speaking, improve your style as well as your content.
- Analyze your audience and be clear on your purpose as your first step.
- Take your audience on an emotional journey and they will remember your message.
- Integrity and passion top the list of important pitch components.
- Images should take precedence over text in your PowerPoint decks.