Let me get starting with telling you one thing (and bashing a few people while I’m on it):
Tips such as ”prepare yourself”, ”capture the essentials” or ”have a plan from day one” are useless as red lights in Grand Theft Auto (looking at you Forbes Magazine).
And that’s the reason why you won’t find them here today.
If you’re looking for practical strategies that you can actually use on your pitch, you’re going to love today’s post. I’ve put together a list of 21 actionable, university backed and expert approved techniques that will help you…
Set yourself apart during an investor pitch, or a demo day (Yes, you’ll be up against a lot of other people, so it’s crucial to learn how to make an amazing impression fast).
Nail that meeting with your boss. Convince him to say ”YES !’ to your amazing idea. Persuade him that what you have to say is far more important than the emails popping out his iPhone screen.
Introduce yourself in a way that grabs attention, and get people eager to know more about what you have to say. In as little as 15 seconds.
Buckle up my friend, and let’s get started.
How to pitch an idea to investors, companies (or even your boss): 21 actionable strategies that work fast.
What is a ”pitch” anyway?
1. Know the ask, set up goals
You can’t focus on what needs to be done – aka laying out a strategy to pitch your idea – if you don’t know what you want to achieve. And that’s why you need to set up goals.
Write down your answer to the following questions:
Setting goals has two proven benefits (Latham & Locke, 2007):
It increase motivation: giving people specific goals to achieve rather than telling them to do their best increases their motivation, persistence, and self-efficacy.
It increases achievement: setting goals increase success rate. Studies have documented that that individuals with clear, written goals are significantly more likely to succeed than those without clearly defined goals.
Now that you know why you need a goal for your idea pitch, you need to understand what makes a solid goal. A Harvard study documented that a good goal includes the following three attributes:
Specific (clear goals increase persistence, making individuals less susceptible to the effects of disappointment, and frustration)
Challenging (people are motivated the most when they think their actions will produce positive outcomes, and when they value these outcomes)
Meaningful and valuable
[Tweet “Setting up goals = creating a blueprint guiding your steps toward the outcome you actually want.”]
Here are a few examples of good ”goals”:
Have your boss validate the 20% increase of marketing budget for next year.
Get prospects to accept your proposal, agree to a second meeting one month from now.
Present your idea to people that can get you a meeting with investors to get financial backing.
2. Analyze your audience and identify their ”type”
The reason of doing this is to identify relevant info about your listeners that will help you adapt your pitch in a way that appeals to them.
You want to be doing two things:
First, analyze your audience in line with these three phases (Lucas, 1995):
What do they like/dislike
Another way to do this is to use this simple market segmentation framework:
Second, determine your audience type (Reid, Kiefer, and Kowalski, 1994)
The “lay” audience
No special or expert knowledge. They usually need background information.
The “managerial” audience
Any background information, facts, or statistics needed to make a decision should be highlighted.
The “expert” audience
The most demanding audience in terms of knowledge, presentation, and graphics or visuals.
Write down your answers.
The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll be able to address their needs and expectations.
3. Identify who has the power (to say Yes)
Who has the power to green light your idea?
Make a list of the people who will have exposure to your pitch, and identify:
Trust me, you really don’t want to spend your energy making a pitch to people who aren’t empowered to pull the trigger.
4. Spy on your competitors’ ideas using Google
Think you’re the first one ever pitching that specific idea you have in mind?
It’s very likely that you’re not the first one (and if you are, make sure to validate that there’s a market, aka people able and willing to pay for you have to offer).
The point of this technique is to evaluate how other people like you are actually pitching their own idea in the real-world.
You can use these search strings to specify your search query:
Let’s take a look at a specific example.
Let’s say you have an idea about a food delivery service. You’re going to “spy” on your competitors to see how real-world companies offering similar services are actually pitching them:
Next, visit a webpage in the search results that is relevant to your expectations.
You could head over to a paid search result (“Food Delivery by Caviar”) , or an organic result (“We tried the 9 most popular food-delivery apps”) and identify how your competitors are selling themselves:
What did you like / dislike about how these firms present themselves? Why?
Which words do they use to describe the benefits of services/products?
What elements of their value proposition, positioning or core benefits could you apply to your idea?
What makes your idea different, and better, from what’s already on the market?
5. Have a mission
“The best companies are almost always mission-oriented”. Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator (source).
If you don’t love and believe in what you’re building, you’re likely to give up at some point along the way.
Here are two examples:
“Belong anywhere”. Airbnb.
“Cook more. Live better”. Plated.
“We’re the creators of Bantam Bagels, and we’re on a mission to change the way you bagel !”
Try to tie your idea to a specific mission that will promises a transformation for your audience.
What’s the big idea that defines what I want to do?
6. Use the 3W formula to refine your idea (and craft a message they just can’t ignore)
Here’s the giant, hairy problem we’re all facing when presenting ideas to people:
What will the audience remember when they walk out of the room?
For most people, it’s likely going to be… nothing (dreadful, isn’t it?). The 3W formula is a simple, 3-step process you can use to craft an irresistible message that actually gets remembered.
Who: Who is your target audience
Like I mentioned in the strategy # 2:
Find out as much as you can about the people that you will pitch your idea to.
25-35 year-old creatives and entrepreneurs based in Shanghai.
Why: Why would they want to listen to you?
Nobody cares about you or you or your idea.
[Tweet “Nobody cares about you, people care about how you can solve their problems.”]
And your goal here is to list down the sub-conscious reasons people would have to listen to you:
What pains will you alleviate?
What fears will you help them get away from?
How will your idea help them get more of what they want?
I help people get rid of their fear of public speaking.
Help them look comfortable and confident in front of any audience.
What: What will you tell them to help them get what they want?
Basically… what are their takeaways? What will benefits to them? (Hint: they must want what you’re going to give them). You can use this structure:
I will show you exactly how [idea name] can help [target audience] get [desired result].
I will give you 20 actionable strategies and techniques to craft irresistible presentations that influence, impact and sell.
7. Wrap your message up in one sentence (Yes, really)
Now that you know who you target, why they may be interested in listening to what you have to say, and what you want to tell them, you are going to wrap it all up in one sentence (Yes, you read that right, only one sentence).
Show Miami-based clinics how we can help them get their website to the front page of Google.
Motivate my directory board to increase the marketing budget.
Our new CRM software helps financial advisers to close more deals.
8. Craft the perfect elevator pitch
[Tweet “An idea isn’t well understood until it can be explained to someone else”]
We’re being asked this question all the time:
“So, what do you do?”
Most answers are boring, and, let’s face it… completely unmemorable.
On top of this, there’s another problem:
It just takes less than 30 seconds for someone to form a first impression when they meet you.
In this short amount of time, you have to be able to introduce your idea in a way that gets people eager to know more about what you have to say. So the question is…
How do you do that?
You make an elevator pitch.
If you were n the real estate business, here are two – very different – approaches you could use to introduce yourself (hint: one of them really sucks):
“I’m a real estate coach”
“I train real estate agents how to make more money and have a life” (source)
A boring elevator pitch gets you this kind of reactions: “Oh, OK”.
Instead, a solid elevator pitch makes the people you’re taking to say things like… “That’s awesome !”
Here’s a great elevator pitch example:
To build a solid elevator pitch, you can use some of these university-backed formulas:
Here are a few examples of good elevator pitches:
You know how leaders have some amazing ideas but they have a hard time getting people to listen?
I help leaders gain a competitive advantage by delivering irresistible pitches that sell their ideas and make an amazing impression.
You know how software is something complicated and not very intuitive for people?
Well, my name is Jay and I make software easier to use.
9. Use this 3-step process to introduce (and sell) yourself in 15 seconds
Jim Bouchard is a martial arts instructor and leadership coach. Say hello to Jim:
He came up with a quick, simple formula you can use to introduce yourself in less than 15 seconds. It goes like this:
Use this formula to introduce yourself in just a few seconds, and make an amazing impression in front of other people.
Check out Jim’s own example:
”I’m Jim Bouchard , the guy who teaches you how to think like a black belt.
If you wanna know more about that, I’ll be over at the donut table at the end of the meeting”.
Here’s mine, based on Jim’s model:
I’m Clemence Lepers, I teach marketers and smart people like you to make irresistible pitches and presentations that close more deals. If you wanna know more about that, head over to PPTPOP.com.
10. Use the grandma test to guarantee anyone can understand your idea
This technique is stupid simple… but crazy-effective:
If they don’t understand, then you either suck at explaining, or your idea is not clear enough for you.
Either way, work on it until you’r 100% confident that your grandma could get what you’re talking about. Seriously.
11. Tie your idea to at least one of the eight foundational desires common to everyone
Here’s the principle:
People are guided by a grand total of 15 desires.
“Nearly everything important a human being wants can be reduced to one or more of these 15 core desires, most of which have a genetic basis,” says Steven Reiss, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University.
Our brains are wired to the following 8 most burning desires:
When pitching your idea, job is to tie it to at least one of these human desires.
I guess you’d like to take a look at a concrete example?
Which human desire(s) do you think this training program want to appeal to?
Think about if for just 10 seconds…
Here are the answers:
4. Sexual companionship (go from o-Hum to HOTTIE)
6. To be superior, winning + 8. social approval (want to turn some heads?)
If you want to successfully pitch an idea to a company, an investor, or your boss, you have to tie your idea to what people desires.
So make sure to write down your answers to the next two questions:
What are the hopes, fears and dreams of the people that are going to listen to my idea?
How can I tie it to their most burning desires related to their feelings?
12. Tie your idea to benefits your audience cares about
Nailing an idea pitch is when you successfully tie your solution to the specific benefits your target audience is willing to get.
Your idea must offer a transformation.
You must tie this transformation to benefits people will get from buying your idea.
You can use these formulas to tie your idea to benefits:
Take a look at this Shark Tank pitch from Grounds Coffee Pouches.
Pay close attention to how they introduce themselves:
“Our product – Grounds Coffee Pouches – are filled with freshly ground coffee that’s then flavored and supplemented with B vitamin and other important nutriments to keep you bright and alert while providing a healthy alternative to chewing tobacco”.
Flavored with important nutriments
Keep you bright and alert
Healthy alternative to tobacco
13. Use analogies
Stanford’s encyclopedia of philosophy defines an analogy as “a comparison between two objects, or systems of objects, that highlights respects in which they are thought to be similar“.
[Tweet “Analogies = making the unfamiliar familiar”]
Christopher B. Bingham and Steven J. Kahl have something else to say about analogies:
”People and organizations rely on analogies to help them comprehend change, including the meaning and potential of new technologies, systems and processes. When faced with something new, we usually look for similarities to the familiar. And the more commonalities we find, the more readily we accept the new”.
Which means using analogies to get your message across is especially useful if you’re introducing a new concept people are not familiar with.
You can use analogies…
To describe your idea, or concept
Lollipuff, the eBay of designer goods.
Desktop = screen users stare into when booting up their computer. Apple helped people transition from what was familiar to them in the physical world – the desktop – to what was new in the digital world.
Amazon.com’s shopping cart.
“Could we be the Toys R Us of office supplies?” Staples.
E.g. You’re willing to prove your idea has a market. You may need to speculate on the benefits of your idea based on results from similar ideas than have been launched in the past, or in trends from other markets that are similar (source).
Here’s an example:
“My blog is like a hammer. A hammer is a tool and tools are used to build things. Grab a few pieces of wood and some nails and you can build just about anything with a hammer. Granted, you are going to smash your thumb a few times but that doesn’t mean you should never build in the first place.
My blog is like a hammer. I do not want to live in the fear that I might smash my thumb with my hammer and so never use it. I have smashed it a few times already and I will smash it a few more times in the future, but I am not going to stop writing. This blog is an opportunity and I thank ITS for providing it. I like to build ideas with words and I like to build dreams with ideas […]
Your blog is like a hammer. Pick it up and use it! (source)
Important: Use an analogy that the audience will be familiar with, so there is no confusion.
14. How to pitch an idea in a way that puts their mind at ease
Every person has some form of buying resistance.
So whenever people hear your idea, there will be friction. There will be doubt.
Your goal is very simple:
Your job is to help them overcome that resistance addressing the typical fears driving it. To do that, you have to provide specific answers these questions:
Make sure to have in mind arguments to answer their most burning questions.
15. Write headlines to reinforce your value proposition
Headlines should strictly focus on answering these two questions:
Here are examples of some solid headlines than span across different industries.
Unbounce, a tool that allows marketers to increase their campaigns ROI by building, publishing and testing landing pages:
What do you help me do: “I help you build, publish and A/B test landing pages”
Why should I care? “You don’t need any I.T. skills”
Oh, here’s another one.
Plated, a food delivery company that makes it easy for you to cook a fantastic gourmet meal in thirty minutes or less:
What do you help me do: “I help you cook pre-portioned, chef-designed, delicious recipes you’ll be proud of”.
Why should I care? “With Plated, you won’t need to plan grocery-shopping, and you won’t waste anything. We offer pre-portioned, ridiculously easy to cook ingredients. Delivered at your doorsteps”.
See how it works?
Apply this one-two punch formula to your idea and try to come up with various answers for the “Why should I care” part.
It’s a good exercise that’ll help you present your idea in a way that benefits to those you want to sell it to.
If you don’t know how to get started, use my favorite headline formulas:
[PPTPOP] helps [smart marketers] to [build irresistible pitches] so they can [persuade, impress and close more deals]
[Using this specific SEO technique] will [x2 your traffic] [without having to spend a penny on PPC]
[Re-organizing our process] will [speed-up the approval flow] [without creating a mess]. Let me show you how.
The cool thing with formulas is that they can be shifted !
People value very different things so depending on who you’re taking to, you’ll have to shift your focus on what matters to them.
16. Give them reasons to “buy” your idea
People don’t buy your idea, they buy how your idea changes their life.
So your job is to be laser-focused on providing your audience specific, solid good reasons that will get them to care about what you have to say.
Said differently, tell them EXACTLY how it will benefit them or get out of here.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before going out there and pitching your idea:
Here’s a quick video where author Carmine Gallo explains how to build a message map that distills your story.
He uses the example of Lush, a handmade cosmetics company, and comes up with sub-messages that help highlighting the brand benefits.
You can use this message map technique to list those reasons that’ll help people buy your idea.
17. Use key authority marks to build trust (and persuade)
Cialdini breaks down persuasion into various principles that can be seen as “buttons” every person has. Here are three of these buttons you can push the right way to help you sell your ideas.
Authority – follow the leader
We are persuaded by those who have higher social value.
If your doctor tells you to do something, you’ll listen and take his advice because his experience and expertise trumps your own. Use the names of higher-ups to get people’s attention.
Social Proof – we have an innate tendency to follow the herd
Show the support of similar pears: it is much easier to convince after you told them who was already on board. Think: who has already vouched for my idea?
Scarcity – we want what we can’t have
Scarcity is another super cool persuasion “button”. When we are offered the chance to acquire something that is rare and will soon disappear, we are more susceptible to persuasion.
”Our idea is not for everybody”.
”We select our students carefully”.
The truth is, people don’t like to be told they can’t be part of something.
Do not take part of this if …
Don’t accept this idea if….
My idea won’t work for you if …
Here are 3 additional qualities you should possess in order to make a persuasive argument:
The audience must believe you. This trust can depend on your qualifications, and past performance.
Expertise makes you a more credible communicator, but that expertise must be perceived as relevant to the setting and idea topic you’ll be developing
To the target person or audience in terms of background and values. People are more likely to be persuaded by those they see as similar to themselves (age, cultural background, lifestyle, etc)
18. Use Google Entrepreneur criteria to evaluate your idea’s potential
Use Google Demo Day judge’s criteria to evaluate your idea:
Strength of team: does your team has the talent, skills, leadership to successfully move forward on this idea?
Execution and traction: is there a demonstrated, compelling and captivating experience tied to your idea?
Sustainability and growth potential: is this a big opportunity, can this idea monetize, is there a defined revenue model and is it realistic?
Answer these questions one-by-one, and be ultra specific to show your audience you’re dominating your topic.
If there’s a big opportunity, tie your idea to specific, recent market research and data trends proving what you say.
19. Rehearse in front of real people, get feedback
Most of us don’t ask for feedback because…
We worry that it will be negative
We don’t know whom to ask
We’ve gotten feedback in the past and it wasn’t helpful
Let me address why these reactions are pretty dumb:
We worry that it will be negative -> You won’t progress if people tell you you’re awesome all the time. You need a kick in the butt.
We don’t know whom to ask -> Ask your wife, husband, best friend. Dare to get feedback from people who care about your success.
We’ve gotten feedback in the past and it wasn’t helpful -> I ate a very bad burger some day in my life. It doesn’t mean I won’t eat burgers ever again. It’s just that I was at the wrong place.
I can’t insist enough on the fact that rehearsing in front of an audience is crazy-effective:
You’ll gain A LOT of value from pitching your idea to people who are not familiar with it.
People are going to ask you questions.
They’re going to challenge you.
They may even tell you: “you know what, that part sucked”.
GOOD. Because that is going to help you figure out what you need to improve in your idea pitch. And fix it.
20. Use these techniques to make a great impression when talking
According to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, our brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within a tenth of a second.
If you want to pitch your idea, you need people to be willing to listen to what you have to say.
If they don’t, the simple fact of opening your mouth is useless.
So you need to make a solid impression.
Here are a few science-backed techniques you can apply to do just that:
Smiling has a positive effect on both happiness and physical health, and helps the heart recover more quickly after stressful events (source)[Tweet “Even if you’re terrified of public speaking, no one will know if you have a smile on your face. “]
Stance (use high-power body poses)
According to Harvard Business School professor Amy J.C. Cuddy, high-power poses decrease cortisol (“the stress hormone”) by about 25% and increase testosterone by about 19% for both men and women.
But not only… high power poses are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance, and help you look more confident when talking.
Make yourself taller
Use . . . long . . . pauses.
Silence helps you replace awkward fillers like ‘um’ and ‘ah’ or ‘you know’.
Silence between points also allows listeners to ‘catch up’.
Eye contact is crucial in build rapport by ”giving audience members the feeling that they are engaged in an intimate one-on-one conversation” (source).
Do these two things:
Spend a few seconds with each person you look at
For bigger lecture halls, use an M or a W pattern to spread eye contact throughout
21. Analyse your audience and adapt as you speak
When you are giving your speech you have to adapt to your audience if you can tell they are not listening or paying attention.
Stacy DeGeer from Monmouth College advises to analyze your audience while you speak:
Nonverbal audience cues
If you are not getting a positive response from your audience, here’s what to do:
Eye contact – are they looking at you?
Try to talk more to the audience
Use sensory phrases to make them feel something
Make your audience see what you see, feel what you feel, taste what you taste, smell what you smell, and hear what you hear.
Here are a few examples:
To get your brain juice going and spice up your sales pitches, check out these great lists of sensory words and phrases:
Extra badass resources
Lecture 1 – How to Start a Startup (Sam Altman, Dustin Moskovitz)
[Tweet “How to pitch an idea: 21 actionable strategies that work”]
Want to deliver an amazing business pitch?
Coming up with ideas is easy, selling them to strangers is hard. You can have the world’s best product, service or idea but if you can’t communicate about it effectively, you have nothing.
If you’re planning to deliver a business pitch to investors, then I have a question for you:
What if you could actually craft that pitch knowing exactly….
The well-guarded secrets behind crafting an solid pitch and getting your message across you audience?
How to enter the mind of an investor – and how to present your idea in a ways that address his doubts and most burning questions?
The exact slides to include in your startup investor pitch deck, or which points to hit during the actual pitch?
The problem is, most online “experts”, bloggers and entrepreneurs never tell you what to do.
They’re pushing basic, shallow advice like “you only need 10 slides in your pitch deck” (oh, great thanks). The kind of tips that are misleading and don’t give you the key to actually raising funds for your company.
If you’re interested in learning how to pitch an idea to investors, then check out what I have for you below:
What it isWho it is forWhat you'll learn
A 3.5 hour course thats helps you build a solid investor pitch deck to raise money for your startup.
Entrepreneurs and those seeking to raise money or gain support
Those interested in learning about how investors think and act
How to put together the building blocks of a winning pitch deck, slide-by-slide.
Revealed! Wondering what happens on “the other side of the table”?
This section pulls back the curtain on how to think though the lens of investors and understand what they’re looking for in the deals they invest in (Hint: you’ll hear it from a real VC).
Practical advice to tackle the actual presentation like a pro (what you should do, common mistakes and how to avoid them) … The mental checklist of all the points you need to hit during the pitch, even if you have zero experience presenting to an investor.
Best practices, frameworks, and insights to leapfrog the competition and give you a serious advantage in raising funding.