When pitching, the prospects you are trying to sell to seem extra critical. It’s hard to persuade them. This is because they are scared of making the wrong choice.
People don’t like making choices. Because making choices mean you can make the wrong choice. And if you make the wrong choice, you will feel regret. Or even worse: you will lose status amongst your peers.
This is why at pitch presentations, the recipients seem extra critical. They are trying to avoid making the wrong choice rather than making the right choice.
You can make them feel at ease more by first acknowledging the fact that the choice they have to make is indeed hard and by telling them stories.
Pitching is often seen as hard-core sales. You are there to convince your audience to buy your product or service. Or to invest in your company. All you are after is ‘winning’. Closing the deal.
That’s why many believe pitching is all about broadcasting your message. About stating facts. And about convincing by showing how amazing you are.
These people are dead wrong. In pitching, it is about one thing only: trust. If you are capable of winning the trust of those listening to your pitch, they will buy anything. That is why pitching should be about winning trust. And what better way to win trust, than to tell a story?
Storytelling is often referred to as a marketing tactic. Telling stories isn’t often seen as a good pitch strategy. But it should. Because it is. And for more reasons than winning trust. In pitching, storytelling skills are important. Let me explain why.
Stories will take people out of the role of the critic
Someone who is listening to pitches has one role that they want to play. One that they feel they have to play: that of the critic.
As a potential client or investor, I’m thinking: “You are trying to sell me something. And I don’t that. I want to make my own decision.”
And because I want to make my own decision, I want to prove that it wasn’t you persuading me. To do that, I must be as critical as possible. This is why those listening to a pitch, will focus on finding loopholes. They will try to find something wrong with your product or service.
The best way to get people out of this role is storytelling. The mind works in mysterious ways. And one way is that when we hear stories, we become part of it.
When people listen to stories, they will step into another world. No longer are they the critics. They are listeners, trying to relate to the hero in your story.
A story will show real life
If there is one thing that those listening to a pitch think is ‘how does this fit into my life or business?’. We want to make sure that what we buy is something that will help us forward. It has to improve our lives.
Listening to a ‘dry’ pitch means that we have to do the translation to real life ourselves. We hear the facts, we see the functionalities of a product. But how will that work in our real-life situation? It is hard to imagine.
If you’re presenting in a pitch, you can help your audience imagine real life. By telling a story. It will make it easier for the listener to imagine how things will work in real life. Because they show a part of reality. Even if they are fictional. It takes people into a world where they can picture themselves in a new situation. Using your product or service.
Stories get them to talk
A misconception about pitches is that it’s all about the salesman talking. Trying to show the product or service. If a pitch goes well, the ‘receiving end’, those that are making the decisions, are talking a lot as well. In fact, the more you get them to talk, the higher the chance you will make the sale.
A great way to get people to talk is to tell a story. It will trigger them to relate to and talk about their own experiences. It will open them up.
They will hear something, will relate and when you let them, they will talk.
A story trigger emotions
We think we are all rational buyers. We buy products and services based on checklists. On functionalities. And on well-researched documentation. Right? Wrong!
Most of our buying decisions, both personal and professional, are emotional. In fact, over 80% of our buying decisions based on emotion. Because we feel good about a product. Because we like the salesperson. Or because of peer pressure. Our friends have it, or even worse: our competitors. That’s why we need it as well!
A story is a great way to trigger emotions. Once the listener can relate to the problem, it will feel emotionally close to the hero. This means that the emotion is decisive when buying. Because they feel a relationship. They can see themselves. And if they are emotionally involved in the story, it will mean they will make the right decision. Buying into your product or service.
Storytelling is crucial in a pitch
You see? Storytelling is very important in pitching. In fact, it’s crucial! When you use stories, you will have a bigger chance of winning the pitch. Go for it! Tell that story!
And if you need help, we have the Story Pyramid Template for you that will help you create a story or take our Storytelling Class below!
There are speakers who draw great crowds. Not only during their session, but after as well. People come up to them, ask them questions, take pictures and often enough, become clients.
How do they do that? Of course, with a good presentation. But there is a way to get that attention as well. Here’s how…
Hey! How are you doing? Sometimes, when you’re preparing for a presentation, you will find that you have too much material. You just can’t put it all into your presentation and that sometimes… It sucks, it’s not nice… But it might be something that you can use for your own benefit. Let me tell you why.
Sometimes you want people to come up to you after your talk. You want them to get engaged with you during the breaks. Now, the extra material that you can’t put into your presentation, might actually be something that can help you trigger to get people to come up to you after your talk.
Imagine that at the end of your talk you are almost done and you explain to the audience that you may have a lot more stories about a certain topic. You go like “oh I wish I could tell this now but we don’t have the time for that. But you know what, if you really want to hear the story come up to me afterward and I’ll tell you the story.”
Chances are people will come up to you to hear that last bit, that last story that you couldn’t tell in your presentation. So don’t just rule out the extra information the extra stuff that you have prepared. Use it for your own benefit. Use it after your talk.
I wrote about ways to connect with your audience before. One topic I didn’t address then was asking the audience questions. Sometimes speakers want to engage with the audience by asking them a question. Often, these are simple questions (“who in the room works for an agency?”).
Sometimes the questions are more complicated. These have a high-risk factor in them. The audience might not respond. And if they don’t, it leaves you with an awkward ‘silence’. Unfortunately, you can see this happen quite often.
To avoid this from happening, there is a different way to get the engagement of the audience, using questions.
What not to ask
Let me start by saying what you shouldn’t do when asking a question. The first thing is simple: don’t ask a rhetorical or vague question. Asking ‘Don’t you feel this is a bad idea?’ will only make your audience gaze at you. You’re more or less saying you don’t want an answer.
If you don’t want an answer, don’t ask a question!
Second, if you are not specific enough, the audience will not know what you want from them. Asking ‘what do you know about X, Y or Z’ will not get you many answers. A question like “what are common believes you’ve heard about topic X, Y or Z’, will get you more answers. Why? Because it’s more specific and less ‘personal’. People are not afraid to answer that one.
The answer: Ask a series of questions
Before asking any question, you need to realise why you are asking a question. Is it ‘only’ to connect? Or are you trying to make a point? Chances are, you want to make a point. That means you want people to interact with you on a specific question.
You can ask a series of questions, building up to the ‘big one’. Build towards the answer to the ‘big question’ by asking several smaller ones.
Let’s say you want to emphasize the importance of using the right icons on an app to an audience of marketers. The point you want to make is that if you build an app, you want to use icons that people recognise.
To get them involved, you want to draw upon common concepts that are familiar to the audience. This will help lead them to the answer you want. In this case, you want to make clear that when building an app, use icons that people will understand.
You can then show a group of icons on the screen and ask “which icon represents the call button?”
Most likely, the audience will be able to point that out, since they’ve all seen these icons before. The follow-up question would then be “how do you know that icon represents the call button?” Again the audience will know the answer. Chances are they will say “because it has a phone on it”. The third question then is the key question. “Why do you think they use a picture of a phone for this function?” The audience will answer “because people recognise it.”
You’ve now made your point. If you build an app, you want to use icons that people recognise.
Of course, this is a very simple example of a relatively easy concept (we all know this, right?). The concept stays the same on different topics. Draw upon what people know and build towards the desired response.
Almost every conference has them: panel discussions. In these sessions, they often bring more speakers on stage to discuss a topic. When they invite you to be part of one of these panels, you are in luck! The organisers see you as an expert!
In the early days, I never thought about where to sit in a panel discussion. I often chose a ‘safe’ spot, usually at the end of the row. That might not have been a smart choice in retrospect. Through experience and learning about psychology, I learned other places are better.
Which places you ask? That depends. On you. On the other members of the panel. And on what the panel is for.
What is your goal?
The first thing you want to ask yourself is: what is your goal for the panel? What do you want to get out of it? Are you looking for leads? Or are you trying to show your knowledge?
How do you want to be seen?
The second question you need to ask yourself is how you want to be seen? Do you want the be seen as the most knowledgeable member? The influencer? Or would you rather they see you as the humble person?
Who are the other panel discussion members?
You want to know who the other members in the panel are. You want to know who is most vocal. You want to know who is popular. And you want to know how well they know the moderator.
Where to sit
Depending on the answers on these questions, you determine where to sit:
The most vocal one: close to the moderator
Do you want to answer a lot of questions? Be the most vocal at the Q&A? In that case, you want to sit closest to the moderator. After all, the moderator is the one asking the questions. When she or he does that, the moderator will look at the panel. If you are the first one in sight, you will get more chance to talk.
When you want to be seen as the most influential person on the panel, you want to choose the middle seat. This has to do with psychology. People subconsciously feel the person in the middle is the most influential one. And it’s true. Just think about all the movies you’ve seen in the past. The popular girl in that high school movie always walks in the middle. The leader of the band? Front center. And the most important players in a football team always play in the middle as well.
Friend of the popular one: next to the vocal one!
And finally, do you feel you want to piggy-bag on the popularity of other panel discussion members? Do you feel somewhat insecure, but want to look good anyway?
In that case, go sit next to the most vocal member of the panel. People will see you when that person is talking. They will feel you are connected to that person. And chances are that the first one they will turn to after that vocal person, is you.
It’s about perception
In the end, it’s about what you want to ‘show’ about yourself on the panel discussion. It’s what people will think of you. By sitting in the right spot, you can steer that in the direction you want.
Never underestimate the power of a smile in a presentation. It can do wonders for how your audience feels.
Did you know for example that smiling makes people more comfortable with you as a speaker? Your facial expressions are extremely important. The way you look says a lot about how you feel and about your message. At the same time, you don’t want to be smiling through a very serious story. Your facial expressions should be in line with the story.
Bas van den Beld explains.
There’s a smile! When you smile you appear to be more likable. More competent. That’s what you want, right? Because you want to persuade people.
You will also see that your audience will start smiling with you. They will mimic you. Research at the university showed that it’s very difficult to frown if you look at someone who smiles.
Smiling is contagious. A smile affects things and it lives around us. And when you and your audience are both smiling, you will both feel good. Resulting in a better and more persuasive talk.
When we speak, we try to persuade. We try to persuade the audience of our views. We try to persuade potential clients of our products or services. We try to persuade, period.
But persuasion doesn’t ‘just happen’. It happens for a reason. So we should dive into the minds of those we are targeting. And we should understand how persuasion works. This video, narrated by one of the great experts in persuasion Robert Cialdini, might be a good start.
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