Silicon Halton Pitch NightLast night 12 brave souls stood in front of the crowd at the Silicon Halton Pitch Night and told us about their businesses. This friendly, supportive forum represented a potentially profitable opportunity for the pitchers, whose services would now be known to a wider audience.

To add interest to the event, we all received scoring sheets to rate the speakers. Congratulations to the top three: Robert Duvall, Brett Johnson and Reema Duggal, and to all who shared their stories.

During the networking time after the pitches, a couple of the speakers asked me for candid feedback. I don’t want to name names, but I thought it might be constructive to share a few impressions of the pitches in general. Perhaps this advice will be helpful to you when you have to stand in front of a group and convince them you’re worth listening to.

Share a story; describe the problem you solve for your clients
It’s tempting – and easy – to recite a laundry list of what your company does. But it’s more effective to share a story about how you solved a client’s problem. Help us picture us as your client.

Don’t read; do rehearse
Sure, you might be nervous, but do spend the time to know your talk inside out so you don’t have to read it. After all, we’re talking about a maximum of two minutes. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Be sure to try out your talk in front of a mirror so you can be aware of your body language. Making of a video of yourself can be helpful too. Or ask a friend to evaluate you.

Avoid uptalk
Uptalk happens when your voice rises at the end of a sentence, making it sound like a question instead of a statement. You sometimes hear it when telemarketers call: “Hello, my name is Stacey? I’m calling from the XYZ Bank?” Ask your colleagues if you do this. If you do, stop, because uptalk damages your credibility.

Use humour where appropriate
If you inject a little humour into your talk, you help us to relax and like you more.

Watch your words
Don’t overuse the word “solutions” and clichés like “Your success is our success.” Instead, clearly emphasize the benefits of working with you. Why would we choose your business over your competitors?

Be wary of busy visuals
Rethink the idea of showing a cluttered slide. We should be looking at you, not PowerPoint.

Silico HaltonKudos to the Silicon Halton team for organizing the Pitch Night, especially Raj Phalpher, Reema Duggal, Chris Herbert and Rick Stomphorst.

Silicon Halton is a grass-roots high-tech group of people who make a living, make meaning, and make things happen in technology in Halton Region, with a focus on technology, community and growth. Read more about Silicon Halton here.

If you were there, what would you add to my points? Do you disagree with any of my observations?

Related content
How to share your story in a demo

Interview with Shel Israel about his book Stellar Presentations, or why you should not try to present like Steve Jobs

Interview with Eric Bergman: Conquering death by PowerPoint

8 COMMENTS

  1. A great way to practice your pitch is to record the audio in an MP3. You can then play this back to yourself while doing other things (driving, etc). You will find this helps not only with memorization, but also on honing and improve your choice of words.

  2. One other suggestion I’d make after last night is to be careful not to look at the screen when giving your presentation. It causes the presenter to put his/her back to the audience and makes it feel like they don’t know the material. It’s a hard temptation to resist but the screen isn’t going anywhere so just speak out to the crowd.

  3. Very good observation, Kathryn. You’re right. Sometimes the speaker looks at the screen, but it’s distracting. Engage with the audience instead. There was one person last night who asked me for a critique and I told him he did a very good job but needed more eye contact.

  4. Regarding not looking at the screen, I position my laptop in front of me and at table level. As I face the audience, I can look down occasionally at my laptop’s screen to see what is on the slide projected behind me and to my left. To the speaker’s left, BTW, is where the screen should be in cultures where people read from left to right. It is therefore easy–and natural–for a viewer to look at the speaker and then move his or her eyes to the words on the screen and then back to the speaker. Incidentally, if you can use a graphic (photo, art, chart) to convey the message rather than words, all the better.

  5. Very good suggestions for presentations in general, Bill. At the pitch night, since the talks were so short, speakers were limited to ONE slide. Some had builds. But the computer was way off to the side being controlled by someone else. The speakers stood to the side of the big screen. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Hi Donna, thanks for the great suggestions. I was one of the 12 and your points were right on track for me. This was my first time presenting on front of an audience like that, and I can definitely see where there is room for improvement.

    One thing I came away with is I would like to work on just being able to speak freely about what makes us different rather than have to prepare a speech. The more natural it sounds the better. Of course it is good to have points to touch on, but not neccessarily a prepared script.

  7. Thanks for commenting, Mark. For many speakers, the ultimate goal is just what you’ve said: Being able to stand up and speak extemporaneously. For most of us, it takes lots of experience to get that good. Along the way, you might be able to script your remarks but practice and rehearse so that it SOUNDS unprepared when you deliver your remarks. What do you think?

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