Have you ever felt nervous when you are just about to stand up and deliver a pitch for a very important contract, be it to win a new account or to retain one? And have you ever felt a sense of relief when the last slide appears and you are at the end of the pitch? An all too familiar way of opening and closing for too many presenters.
If you have experienced this adrenalin-fueled rollercoaster ride of emotions, you may have already strategized how to manage them for the next time you need to present. The most common tactic I hear of is to spend more time rehearsing and the rationale behind it is to have committed every word of their narrative to memory. Whilst I fully agree and advocate ‘rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – and then rehearse again’, this still isn’t addressing the need to deal with the next adrenalin rush.
When adrenalin hits the brain, we all suffer from the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. Our pulse rates increase, our breathing can become rapid and shallow, our body temperature rises, and, some parts of our brain go into pause mode. As one lady in the US told me recently, “Adrenalin makes me stupid, I forget everything that I had rehearsed!” Therefore, we need to finds ways to manage the high anxiety during the opening of a pitch. How you begin is so important as it sets the stage for what you are about to deliver. All too often I see presenters tell me their name and title, as it is on the first slide “…and I’d like to thank you for giving me the time to present to you today.” And then launch straight into the presentation whilst adrenalin is wreaking havoc with their thoughts!
Before you rehearse for your next major presentation do remember to establish rapport with your audience. Consider what they are probably thinking, and in particular, how they may be feeling. Recognise the internal dialogues they are holding in their heads, and develop the narrative to empathise with those feelings and thoughts. Then link forward with the over-arching benefit to the outcome of your pitch for them. Finally, sell yourself before you sell your company and your offering. By this time, your nerves should have started to settle and you can focus on the message you have rehearsed so well.
As for the closing, think of how many times you have heard the presenter say, “To summarise…” or “In conclusion…:? Or even worse, “I hope you enjoyed the presentation – any questions?” A much more effective way to end is to pause as the last slide appears, place the remote clicker on the table and then link back to the over-arching benefit, “A few moments ago, I said…”. Then, repeat your value proposition that underpins the over-arching benefit and ask for their agreement to award the contract to you. And empathise…
Linking forward and linking back starts with the very beginning and finishes the end. As a technique, it will make your pitch far more memorable and relevant.