One of the problems I encounter regularly is that selling innovation is very difficult. But why? It’s like a pitch, and many people are not used to speaking in public. So I want to give you some helpful tips, having been there, and done that.
Why do you pitch? To get some funds into the bloodstream of your company, increase your network, to get new customers. After all, no money – no funny... On average, the catcher you are presenting to gets a couple of dozen proposals per week. It’s not just that you are not the only one, but you are one of the many one-to-many. So it’s only natural that they don’t spend the time you’d like them to do considering your idea’s potential.
Still, you can turn the odds in your favor, make sure you stand out from the crowd and get remembered. How? – Flirt a bit. To pitch is to flirt. It should be personal.
Ok, ok…I might have shocked you a bit – or at least hope I have.
At a first glance flirting really does sound unfitting in a business context, but let me clarify. One, it works. Two, I’m not suggesting to invite the VC or your board member for a drink, but to learn from the art of flirting and apply it for success.
The pitch is your pick-up line. Treat the pitch you are giving as your pick-up line. Make it a memorable starter for a discussion with the audience (VCs, partners, clients) that would lead to beneficial outcomes for all parties. Still, be cautious not to sound like a 20-something guy trying to pick up girls in a bar.
Presenting is about the audience. Of course you are extremely proud with your product and you want to boast it off the roof. In real-life romance flirting no one would bear with you, listening through your entire life story. Similarly, in business flirting, you risk to lose your audience’s attention if you focus solely on yourself. Constrain the urge to make it all about you. Instead, make it about them. People like to be asked questions and to feel part of something. You want them to feel captivated not captured! Engage with them by having a dialogue rather than a monologue. Try to find a commonality that you share or create one – the weather, the new Avengers movie, favorite cat memes, etcetera.
Appeal. Flirting is a response to finding someone physically attractive. In all honesty, you wouldn’t approach and talk to a complete stranger if you didn’t find them at least somewhat attractive. More often than not we end up not liking a person because of their appearance rather than their character. As superficial as it may seems our initial reaction to others is dictated by what we see.
So, make sure you look good – read – you and your presentation. You want to be remembered? Sometimes your wardrobe can also make you stand out. Take for instance Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks. Consider a piece of wear or accessory – an orange tie or rainbow socks.
Same goes for the presentation. The more visual cues you use to make your stand the stronger the engagement. Images create emotions. Try to avoid overloading slides with information and put gazillion bullet points to make your point “clearer” – no one wants to read that.
Anxiety. It’s natural that you are nervous but do your best to hide it. Research has shown that our voice tends to modulate as a response to anxiety and thus make us look less attractive. Keep your cool!
Humor. We all appreciate a good laugh and a smile. Clever jokes and the right timing can be your greatest tool to win over those sceptics on the other side of the table. Humor is an effective way to engage with your audience, break the ice and move to another, more personal level of communication.
Do you think you are good at flirting? Practice makes perfect!