“I hear you’re a pitch coach, Tom. Tell me something that can give me a true advantage,” said John, an acquaintance, trying to make the right pitches to get funding for his startup company.
“Many of us have to unlearn so we give the best pitch of our lives,” I began. “The problem is that when human beings are under stress, we fall back on ‘default settings.’ I started off as a shy, timid, 9-year-old boy playing the piano for a tough audience. My leg fluttered like a hummingbird’s wings. To give great speeches in front of hundreds of people, I had to recondition myself. I had to break out of my default settings.”
“How do you do that?”
“It took coaching by mentors. It also takes what I do with my clients. I guide and coach them through my process Elite Adaptive Conditioning.” I said. “I’ll give you an example. What’s the worst thing for someone giving a pitch?”
“My mind going blank,” John said, real concern on his face.
“Exactly. And that fear can ride inside your subconscious mind. So, what I do is help the client develop Real Confidence,” I said. “Over and over we practice what I call Recovery Methods. For example, I’ll say to the client, ‘Your mind has just gone blank. Use one of your Recovery Methods now.’ Then the client immediately does a Recovery Method. This embeds the excellent-response into the client’s subconscious mind. This is Elite Adaptive Conditioning.”
Here’s an example. Giving a speech at IBM, my mind went blank, and I did NOT skip a beat. I said, “I’ll need to pause for a moment; my brain needs more RAM.”
The audience of tech people laughed; they loved that comment. And I remained poised. I continued with, “Now, I want to emphasize …” [These are just two of many Recovery Methods that I tailor for my clients.]
Two Crucial Points for Your Rehearsal
First, merely rehearsing your lines of your pitch is NOT enough. You will do better by rehearsing Vital Details like how to respond to the 10 Worst Questions the Investor Could Ask. Have at least two answers for each question. Then rehearse those two answers in response to having someone ask you such questions.
In my graduate level, public speaking classes, I would have the students help each other practice. One student said, “Bad question” and the other student practiced “catching the question.”
One catches the question by saying something like:
- I’m glad you asked that. I was going to get to that in the next section. We’ll work with this point now.
- George, I can see that means a lot to you.
- Good question. That leads us right into …
SECRET: Some investors purposely “mess with you.” They are testing you. They want to see if you are “Leader Material” before they even consider investing in you and your company/idea. So, you must rehearse dealing with Tough, Surprise-Questions.
Second Crucial Point: Always rehearse the Most Vital Detail.
I learned this one the hard way. In a timed-speech contest, the important thing is to end the speech on time. I made a big mistake by going overtime by 8 seconds — and my funny, warm speech was disqualified.
I had rehearsed:
- how to start my speech
- how to say “I have three main points for you”
- how to address the speaker AND the audience
- how to bring in spontaneous humor
- how to end my impromptu evaluation-speech with a summary
But I had failed to rehearse the Vital Detail: how to cut a speech short—with grace. I could have rehearsed a quick ending: “And the final thing I’m going to share is ______.”
Here’s the item to notice: If you participate in a “pitch fest” and you’re supposed to pitch in just 20 minutes, prepare two patterns. First, prepare to present for 10 minutes and have a dialogue with the potential investors for 10 minutes. Second, rehearse how to cut your pitch short—with grace. You can rehearse something like: “And one final thing: I encourage you to say yes to funding my project because of [Reason #1] and [Reason #2]. Thank you.”
The Real Secret to Nail Your Pitch or Your Speech …
To nail your pitch or your speech, realize that it’s not just about rehearsing the text of your speech. You need to rise to the higher level. This is where you’ve prepared for your mind going blank, you can cut off your speech with grace, and you can handle the toughest questions.
That’s how you create your best performance – and that’s how you create Real Confidence in yourself. We’re talking about the Real Confidence that is contagious to the potential investors. This puts you in the ideal position to gain funding.
Spoken Word Strategist
CEO (leading teams in United Kingdom, India and USA)