HOW TO make a perfect pitch (Part III/III): The soft skills (and more) required for a great presentation

In Others by Sébastien FluryLeave a Comment

This is the third and last post of the serie “How to make a perfect pitch”. If you’ve missed the first and second post, give them a look! This week, we’ll discuss more about soft skills (or Emotional Intelligence Quotient).

But maybe some of you have never heard of what soft skills are, According to Wikipedia, they are behavioral competencies, which are also known as interpersonal skills, or people skills, which include proficiencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, influencing skills and selling skills, to name a few.

Related to your presentation, it’s the way you interact with your audience. How you speak is as important as what you’re saying and how you’re moving (be aware of your tics and try to eliminate them).

In your pitch, DO:

  • use short and active sentences
  • speak with passion (show you are HUNGRY to succeed!) but slowly
  • share insights (not the efforts to reach where you are (who cares?) and tell the message (not the data behind))
  • make slow movements
  • change location during the pitch (don’t stay frozen on your legs, but also avoid to be continuously moving… change location maximum 3 times during the pitch)
  • dress business like when you’re pitching investors… even if startup is cool and fun, the guys you’ve in front of you are not exactly in the same world.

But DON’T:

  • express non words (heu…) or fillers (OK, you know)
  • read your slides!
  • put your hands in your pockets!
  • have something in your hands to play with! You’re there to be focused on your audience…

You can (and should) also use active speech technics:

  • Change verbs from the passive to the active voice: “The sample was taken from…” to “A team of four assemblers from the plant took samples from…”
  • Replace “is” with an action verb: “We found three out of five assembly lines were inefficient.” to “Poor maintenance contributed to 43% of downtime in three out of five assembly lines.”
  • Make an “is” statement more concrete: “We believe the decision is a good one.” to “The decision will save you $214K per month in purchasing costs.”
  • Link assertions to your experience by eliminating “seem”: “The data would seem to indicate that…” to “Our experience in similar situations leads us to suggest that…”

You need to always finish your presentation on some positive notes, like:

  • Repeat the 4 most important points of the pitch
  • Thank the audience for the attention
  • Stay in front of the audience (some people might want to applaud, if you’re really good!)
  • Open the discussion, Q&A session

Now you’ve terminated your pitch, but you’ve done just half of the work. Questions and Answers (Q&A) session is as much important as the pitch. Here are some tips to master this potentially stressing time:

  1. First LISTEN & UNDERSTAND, then answer
  2. Be humble and open-minded
  3. If necessary, reformulate the question (so you can earn some precious time to better answer)
  4. Answer as concretely and precisely as possible
  5. If you do not have an answer… admit it! Take notes, thank for the question and follow up the same day(or as quickly as possible)
  6. Never answer a question with “YES, BUT…”, “NO, BUT”…
  7. Beware of participants looking for attention: Don’t start a “debate contest”
  8. Golden rule: stay calm and never lie

Here are some last tips for pitching:

  • Let the CEO present (do not switch speakers in <10mins)
  • Be sexy at presentation
  • Ambition is good but stay realistic: your business won’t take off quicker than all the projects out there (think that Dropbox was created 2 years before getting accepted to YC)
  • Know your 10-min pitch by heart
  • Know the numbers related to your business (revenue, profits, burn-rate). You have no excuse like: “I don’t know, my cofounder who wrote the plan”.
  • Yes it is a show: sell your company as if you were selling a product!
  • If there are technical problems at beginning of the presentation, use this time to present yourself (you don’t have much time left, you’d rather be effective!).

Do not tell those old lies (or try to invent new ones!):

  • “Our financial projections are conservative”
  • “Gartner, Forester etc. says our market will be 100 Mio. in 5 Y.”
  • “A big company is signing our contract next week”
  • “Key employees will join us as soon as we get funded”
  • “Several investors are already in due diligence”
  • “The big companies are too old, dumb and slow to be a threat”
  • “Patents make our business defendable”
  • “All we have to do is get 1 % of the market”
  • “We have the first-mover advantage”
  • “We have a world-class team” – all out of the same lab?
  • “There is no competition” (so there is probably no market?)

Pitching is the key to open doors… not to get financing! Remember what is your goal for pitching? You never make twice the same pitch, as you often pitch to different audiences. So make it clear in your mind and in your presentation.

The last but most forgotten tip for a great pitch is probably the preparation and training. As you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, you’d better have done your homeworks before:

  • know your audience in advance (who’s in, what do they want, etc.)
  • be aware of Murphy‘s law: get there early and have your own fallback solutions
  • Have a timer open to know where you’re in the presentation
  • think on all potential questions of the investors
  • Perfection is rare, so train yourself! Film yourself, practice in front of your mirror, your family, your friends, employees, partners.

Don’t be shy, ask people to review your pitch, even non techies who don’t know about your expertise area. But find people desiring to tell you the truth, not people admiring you blissfully… or people who always say “OK”!

Again, a great thank you to Jean-Pierre Vuilleumier, who we have to give a big credit for a great part of the tips shared here.