Lab Notes

The 6 Ps of Pitching

Over the last year, we’ve worked with companies ranging from zero revenue and a sole founder to Fortune 5 companies with billions in revenue. No matter the size or stage of a company, one thing they all have in common is the need for key people to persuade and move another person or group to their way of thinking. Call it what you will: presenting, selling, influencing, moving. The term we hear the most often? The pitch.

We give a lot of pitches at GoKart, but we also hear a lot of them, primarily through our Ventures group. Each year, we dedicate $1 million in services to invest in early stage companies. Some of the investments go toward ideas pitched by our own employees. Some are aimed at co-creating businesses with our clients. And a big chunk goes toward independent startups. In 2017, we invested in two promising new businesses: POLCO and Kaleidoscope.

We’ve seen a lot of pitches over the years, some memorable, most not so much. A quick Google search can yield countless opinions and guides on how to pitch. Given our combined experience on both sides of the process, we decided to pack up some guidance of our own. Are you familiar the 4 Ps of marketing? We wanted to create a similarly simple framework. We’re calling it the 6 Ps of Pitching, and we believe it can help people and companies sharpen their pitch and increase their odds of successful persuasion.

Prune

Raise your hand if you’ve sat through a 186-slide PowerPoint deck delivered by a team of agency androids (sorry, not sorry). For some reason, people want to cover every aspect of their business and leave nothing to chance. The problem is the audience isn’t interested in this kind of story; it’s boring. Quality and brevity trump a bloated pitch deck all day long. Create your pitch, do your mind dump and then start pruning until every word and image is absolutely necessary. Focus on the most important and effective parts of your story while still respecting your audience’s time. We really like Guy Kawasaki‘s take on this.

Prepare

Scenario: The presenters show up one minute before “go time.” It quickly becomes apparent that they don’t have the right adapters to share a video on the big screen. Somebody calls IT to come and help. The pitch starts ten minutes late, with the presenters frazzled and the audience looking at watches and feeling anxious about making their next meeting. Rookie mistake? You’d be surprised how many smart, experienced people fall into this trap.

Practice every step of your pitch meeting and have a backup plan. Know your tech. Call ahead and find out what you’ll need in the room where you’re presenting. Arrive early and get set up. It’s easy to avoid such needless potholes that can sabotage your pitch.

Once you’re logistically prepped, practice your pitch again. Know the content inside and out. Anticipate questions and understand how to address them (we like “great question, we’ll cover that soon”). Thorough preparation and readiness for curveballs will help you own the room.

People

It’s all about understanding your audience. What are they looking for? Do your due diligence to get background on all meeting attendees and, if necessary, tailor elements of your pitch to suit their interests. The core of your presentation shouldn’t change, but where you should zoom in or zoom out can change depending on whether you’re talking to, say hardcore finance types vs. marketing/branding leaders. Also, recognize that you’ll often have powerful people in the room who are used to being in charge. This is your meeting so you’ll need to seize situational power. Watch this short video from Oren Klaff for some good insight.

Psychology

Because mindset is a huge component of success, many pitches are won or lost before the presenter ever enters the room. The best pitches we’ve seen all came from people who not only have presence — i.e., they have a way of “owning the room” — but also genuinely see their idea or business as a prize. The presenter isn’t needy or apologetic, nor are they arrogant. They truly believe in what they’re pitching. Have you reached that level of mental investment in your idea? What can you do to get there?

Physiology

Physiology is all about getting your body in a peak state. It’s normal and quite common to have some anxiety heading into a pitch meeting. Directly addressing your physical state can help mitigate that anxiety and set the stage for a great pitch. When athletes prepare for competition, they don’t go in cold. The same goes for a pitch: It’s important to warm up.

Once your technology is set up (remember, you arrived early), take five or ten minutes before the presentation to go walk a couple flights of stairs and get your body moving. No stairs (or afraid of getting locked in a stairwell)? Find an open restroom stall, enter one of the stalls, and do some air squats, isometrics — anything that engages your physical state and aligns your body and mind with the competition you’re about to enter. Tony Robbins has a lot of worthy material about changing your physical state.

Pitch

Showtime. Go get what you want. You have a succinct and powerful deck. You’ve thoroughly prepared for the meeting (all the curveballs are anticipated and you are ready for them), practiced your pitch so it’s second nature. You understand your audience and are ready to connect with them. Your mind and body are ready to enter the arena and crush it. Now, deliver the pitch of your life. When you’re done, make notes of what went well and what could have been better. Then, go back to the first P and make your way down the list again. Rinse and repeat. Good luck.

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