The Business Pitch: 9 Tips From a Public Speaking Expert
9 min read
What you’ll learn:
- The key components needed in a business pitch.
- Adding engagement to your pitch through story.
- Demonstrating competence over confidence.
The reality of a great business pitch.
Mention the words “business pitch” and most people think of Dragons Den.
- Stacks of cash next to each Dragon.
- Floundering entrepreneurs who don’t know their numbers.
- The excitement of a bidding war when someone strikes gold.
But pitching isn’t just a TV amusement.
For entrepreneurs and founders, it’s an essential skill with very real consequences – allowing them to turn business dreams into financial reality.
You might have noticed that success in the “Den” often came down to a person’s confidence and personality, as much as their actual business numbers.
As a public speaking coach, I regularly work with people gearing up to pitch themselves or their ideas.
In this article, I’m going to share my 9 best tips (some obvious, some less so) on delivering a truly persuasive business pitch.
First up, communication…
1. Simplicity beats sounding smart.
When giving a business pitch, it’s normal to want to make a good impression.
You probably want your audience to think you’re smart – an expert.
What better way to prove your credentials than using the latest industry-terminology and buzz-words, right?
“As you can see, our innovative data-driven conversion system provides non-local synergy with all affiliated avatars…”
A real expert seeks to make the complex simple.
Your audience needs to understand the business idea in their own terms.
So your pitch should be free of jargon, and communicate the core idea in a way that is straightforward and compelling.
This means keeping your presentation short, simple and to the point, while still conveying the most important information.
It’s always more impactful to be like a Spartan, and say more with less.
But what about your story?
Discover Your Charisma Score!
- Confident Mindset
- Compelling Content
- Engaging Delivery
2. A great business pitch has a story.
Facts, figures and data are all important for a business pitch — but story is what elicits the all important emotional response.
Your pitch should include a well-crafted story that helps your audience to understand you, your business, and the problem it’s solving.
Your story doesn’t have to be a Hollywood epic – it just needs to be honest and engaging.
For instance, here’s what I’d say about my own business story:
“10 years ago, I had severe social anxiety and a petrifying fear of public speaking. After many years struggling, I faced my fears and won back my confidence. I realised so many other people have the same problem – and I wanted to find a way of helping them speak with confidence, quickly and effectively…”
Okay, enough about me.
But notice a few things:
- It’s not my entire life story – it’s a short anecdote on what’s important.
- It includes the pain points, target market, and solution I’m proposing
- It shows how I’m uniquely placed to deliver this service.
Likewise, your story should include your unique background, the insight or inspiration you had for starting the business, and the problem you’re solving.
Stories allow potential backers to look beyond mere metrics and connect with you on a personal level.
3. Underscore your unique difference.
One question on the mind of any business pitch audience is:
“What makes you different from everyone else?”
It’s rare to come up with a completely novel business idea. Entrepreneurs are usually iterating on what’s come before them.
But there has to be something that differentiates you:
- A new process.
- A unique product.
- Your level of service.
- Your backstory or experience.
Big or small, subtle or obvious – your pitch must highlight what makes you different to anyone else in that industry/sector/area.
A brilliant example of this is Washed Up Cards, who create greetings cards using plastic waste they’ve gathered from the shoreline.
There must be thousands of small businesses designing cards, but no one was doing it this way.
What unique difference can your business pitch highlight?
4. Evidence of desire and demand.
One question stumped more people on Dragons Den than any other:
“How many have you sold?”
Queue the awkward silence, fumbling through notes, and disdain on Deborah Meaden’s face!
The entrepreneur may have had a good talk, but couldn’t back up their impressive forecasts with anything tangible.
Financial forecasting is possibly one of the prickliest parts of the business pitch, and let me be clear – this is by no means my area of expertise!
But as a speaking coach, I can tell you this:
Never risk undermining your credibility.
Having big dreams and belief in your business is great – but to any potential investor, big claims demand big evidence.
When delivering a business pitch, you need to prove that there’s a genuine demand for your product or service. Being optimistic is good, but investors want realistic first.
Give them as much tangible evidence as you can:
- Customer testimonials
- Market research
- Current sales
By providing evidence of market validation, you’ll be more likely to win the confidence of your audience, and be taken seriously.
Next, the credibility of your team.
5. No business pitch is an island.
Veteran investors will tell you:
An idea is nothing without the right team to make it happen.
Because of that, any audience will also be interested in the team behind your business.
Your pitch should showcase the team’s expertise, experience, and passion.
If you’re a one-man-band, don’t worry! Talk about your own experience and skills.
People buy people, and quality is more important than quality.
By highlighting the strengths of your team, you’ll be more likely to convince investors that your business is a worthwhile investment — rather than a messy quagmire they’ll regret wading into.
If you’re pitching for people to actively work with you on the business, it’s also important to convey that you’re someone that’s good to work with.
That means being open, receptive, willing to learn and admit mistakes.
A great way of getting these character traits across to your audience is by:
- Mentioning a mistake you’ve learned from.
- Being open about an area of uncertainty.
- Seeking ideas or input on a specific problem.
In doing so you’re letting them get a taste of any future working relationship. They’ll get the sense you’re someone who is collaborative, professional and enjoyable to work with.
What about confidence? Up next.
7. Pitching with confidence, or competence?
The delivery of your pitch is critical to its success – but the “sweet spot” isn’t quite the same as other public speaking situations.
When delivering a speech, keynote or TED-talk for instance, the goal is usually to show passion, charisma and confidence. But when delivering a business pitch, your audience may be more receptive to slightly different qualities.
Subconsciously, they’re likely to be looking for competence and a steady-hand over confidence alone.
In which case a dis-passionate delivery style might help to portray you as a more grounded and dependable person.
So while confidence and charisma are good to have, the most important quality when pitching is credibility.
Remember that there’s no “one-way” to communicate with credibility. Always start from your authentic speaking style, rather than trying to imitate what you think people want to see.
If you’re naturally engaging and effervescent, great - use it.
If you have more of a quiet confidence - that’s fine too.
Speaking of preparation, that’s next.
8. Prepare for objections to your business pitch.
It’s essential to be prepared for potential objections or questions from your audience.
You should anticipate the most common questions that may arise, and prepare clear and concise responses for each one.
Doing so demonstrates that you’ve thoroughly thought through your business plan and won’t be caught off-guard.
That said, it’s worth mentioning what to do if you are caught off guard.
The biggest mistake people make is trying to skirt around the question or give long-winded rambling answers to conceal the holes in their knowledge.
People see right through this.
If there’s something you’re not sure of, it’s far better to be transparent about it. Be confident in admitting what you don’t know. People will appreciate your integrity, and be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.
You can check out this post for help dealing with difficult questions.
9. Fine-tune your business pitch with feedback.
A business pitch requires thought, preparation and ideally a few rounds of feedback from people you trust.
It’s incredibly hard to look objectively at your own ideas and work.
But any investors will be actively seeking to find holes in your proposal, in order to test how water-tight you are as an investment opportunity.
This is why getting second opinions is such a crucial step. Your business pitch will get stronger with each round of feedback — and your delivery will get tighter with each run-through.
For a successful pitch, aim to incorporate each of these elements. But remember that no “winning formula” works without your own personality and authenticity.
Follow my tips, do your preparation, and put in the work beforehand – that way, you can focus on being yourself and connecting on a human level once you’re in the room.
Do you have a business pitch coming up?
Get in touch and let me know!
Head Coach and co-founder at Project Charisma.
Discover Your Charisma Score!
- Confident Mindset
- Compelling Content
- Engaging Delivery