Don't Bore Your Audience — Pitch Like Steve Jobs

We’ve all heard for a long time that there is no better presenter than Steve Jobs. He was entertaining, inspiring, and informative. He never failed to grab our attention. Now, put yourself in this picture….you are an investor listening to pitches on a regular basis. The majority of the pitches are a monolog of facts, detailed translations about a technology, a seemingly unrealistic chart about revenue, and at some point, wouldn’t it feel all a bit boring, even if the product was great?

Now, imagine someone steps up, they tell an interesting story that engages and moves you. You sit forward in your chair…you are focused on each word as their story unfolds. Their voice reflects the drama of the story, and even as they move through the business portion, the story is present, the “why” and the point are clear, and you feel it viscerally like they just plugged you into the wall socket. Electric. The pitch ends. The next company begins their pitch and immediately you are back to the “same old”. This round of pitches ends. Who do you remember?

 Of course, it is the storyteller that is memorable because our human makeup loves stories. We want a villain, and we want to have the hero figure out how to overcome the villain. We want to be uplifted and inspired. So, as you create your presentation, focus on what’s the story and work that story through all the slides, finding the problem/villain, how the hero found the way to overcome the villain, and how the future looks with the hero in place.

It is a great idea to have a transition sentence for each slide. For example, as you finish the slide about the villain, you know you have to say a sentence that signals to you to change the slide and carry on the next message seamlessly.

Now you have the narrative and the transition sentences. It is time to practice. If you think that you can get up on a moment’s notice and knock it out of the park, good luck. I’ve run across very few people who have this skill. Practice! Get feedback. Practice!!

As the script gets more engrained, begin to think how you can use your voice to emphasize a point, create tension through a softer volume, or grab hold of your audience through a dramatic pause. It is those intonations and fluctuations that add more interest. It is like acting, and the best storytellers can use their voice and body movements to enhance the listener’s experience.

Along with using your voice, your body movements can either distract your listener or add more engagement. Distracting body movements draw attention to themselves. Imagine as an audience member seeing hands fiddling in pockets (What is going on there?), two arms gesturing at the same time over and over (Waving someone down?), rocking on your feet forward and back (Will they fall over soon?), or the constant pacing back and forth (Well, this one’s nervous.)

You get the point. It is important to limit distracting movements that draw attention from your story AND it is very important that your voice and body movements are congruent. It would be like saying “yes” while your head is nodding “no”.  Using voice and body movements together to make points and add drama bring your presentation to a level where you grab our audience and creates an experience. It takes courage. It takes stepping out of your comfort zone. A lot could be on the line, so what do you have to lose?

After you’ve practiced and are feeling more comfortable, then video yourself. It is a bit painful, but watch as though it isn’t you. Are you engaging? Is there something that you are doing that distracts from the story? Make changes and video again.

Lastly, many people feel like if they practice too much that it will come off rote. Trust me when I say that it is important that your mind does not have to figure out what you are going to say. The excitement of the moment typically takes that mechanical feel away. The most important thing to remember when you are going to pitch is to have fun. If your goal for your pitch is to have fun using everything you put together, then “drop the mic” is on its way.

Top 5 tips to present like Steve Jobs

1.     Entertain through Storytelling, have a villain and a hero

2.     Use your voice – intonation, dramatic pauses, inflections

3.     Watch your body movements – match them to the story

4.     Practice, practice, practice and get feedback. Video yourself. Learn from what you see.

5.     Have fun

3 Tips to Get the Most from Your Advisory Board

Challenges Facing CleanTech Startups (And Resources to Overcome Them)