Thursday, February 27, 2014

Preparing Your Pitch to Win...Tips from a Pro

 Guest Post by Bryan Rutberg

Are you ready to give the presentation that wins the competition and closes the investment?

Done right, your presentation and your personal style will build confidence in both your team and your idea – a critical “two-fer.” When you assess your audience ahead of time and tell a good story that gets them nodding along, you win. Here’s how to do it.

Know Your Audience – 

Do your homework. Who are they? What background, bias, or knowledge do they bring to your pitch? What outcome do you want from them, and what emotion and action do you want to drive to get it?

Make the story compelling – 

Use analogies, insert drama in the narrative, talk about the conflict or pain caused by the current condition in the market and how you can solve it. Was the problem BIG? Hold your hands apart or way over your head. Does something have to happen fast? Zip that hand across your chest. Raise and lower your voice like you’re reading a story (I like to practice with “The Three Bears”); raise your eyebrows; puff up or shrink down as the drama builds.

Engage the room – 

Make eye contact. In a big room, look left, right, and center, front and back, holding a gaze for a few moments. On a stage, walk side to side while keeping head and chest directed toward the audience so your voice carries. Keep attention by altering your tone, clapping your hands to emphasize a key point, or asking a question that requires audience participation (“quick show of hands – how many of you have children in college?”).

Use the experts – 

In a small room, facilitate a conversation instead of owning the floor. Ask more questions of your audience to keep them engaged. If you get a good question for which you have no definite answer, share your thoughts, weigh some pros and cons, and then ask the questioner his or her opinion. I find that “how might we do so-and-so?” is a great way to turn your answer into a dialogue.

Make the ask – 

Tell your listeners what you want them to do. Even if they know, they want to see that you are capable of asking for it. Your next ask could be to a customer for a beta, a trial, or an order – exactly what the funders want you to ask for so that their investment pays off!

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start.

Bryan Rutberg is a partner at AG Consulting Partners in Seattle, and he leads the Communications Practice. His team helps leaders and their organizations make great connections with their key audiences – customers, partners, employees, and investors, whether in print, online, or in person. His personal work is primarily storyline development and working with public speakers to get great results. Reach Bryan at, or (206) 251-6911. 

 For more, check out these resources:

  • My recent webinar for the Georgetown University Alumni Career Center expanded on these points. If you prefer to stay true to the Northwest, see my talk from last summer for the Executive MBA and Technology Management MBA programs at the University of Washington.
  • A great resource for deck-builders is Speaking PowerPoint, a book and website ( from smart communicator Bruce Gabrielle.
  •  For graphical display of information, get a classic of the genre, Say It with Charts by Gene Zelazny, written in 1985 and updated in 2001. If you like Zelazny’s style, there’s also Say It with Presentations, updated in 2010.
  • I provide 1:1 coaching and small group seminars to work on personal style. I can teach you to use your eyes, hands, voice, and body when you are in front of a room of five or five thousand ( You can see what’s on my mind and get regular pointers when you follow me on Twitter, @agconscomms.

1 comment:

  1. I've worked with Bryan and he's super at pulling out the key messaging points of a complicated story.