At BlueChilli we’ve heard thousands (literally) of pitches and I’ve been on the judging panel at TEDx events, university pitching competitions, angel groups, accelerator programs and incubator programs. I’m also a huge fan of an awesome pitch and love doing it myself, so here are 12 ways you can improve your pitch.

THE most important aspect of your pitch. Practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of your friends, your mum, your dog, yourself by filming it and reviewing after, your mentors and in pitch contests. Enter as many competitions as you can, don’t worry if you’re just starting, just practice. Many incubators have open-mic nights where beginners can come and get “free advice” – use them and practice.

Don’t read
Simply put, if you need read your pitch then you don’t know it well enough. Rather than read a pitch verbatim, it’s far more powerful (and natural) to be fluid and dynamic.  Reading causes you to draw attention to your notes and not to you and this will impact your audience engagement.  Use key points to remember where your’e at (I do this) as a safety net, but unless you’re a polished politician, don’t read your pitch.

Don’t over polish
A perfectly polished pitch comes off clinical and cold. For most audiences, we are interested in the person behind the pitch so humanising it a little with real emotion adds to the balance.

Don’t memorise (the whole thing)
A pre-rehearsed pitch comes across as cold and un-engaging and can be difficult if you’re interrupted mid-flow as you’ll find it hard to pick up the pace again. Rather than memorise the entire pitch, memorise the stories (which you should know) and the first sentence that introduces the story. That way if you get stuck, you only have to recall the first sentence and you have the confidence you’re on your way.

Tell a story
From the bed-time stories of your youth, we are all programmed to love a good story, so make sure your pitch has a compelling story arc. This could be how you uncovered the problem and solved it or how a friend (real or fictitious) goes through the pain and has their problem resolved.

Have structure – the rule of thirds
Formally (famously?) known as the “Gaddie Pitch” after James Tuckerman and I took Anthony Gaddie’s process and turned it in to a “product”. No matter the duration, break your pitch into equal thirds – a third on the problem, a third on the solution and a third on the opportunity.

If you’re going to tell a joke, don’t
Unless you’re a naturally funny person don’t force a hollow joke because your delivery will be imperfect and you’ll leave the audience in an uncomfortable awkward silence. If you must tell a joke, please make sure it’s funny.

Build early rapport
The first few seconds of your pitch are the most important, this is where you build rapport with the audience. Use lots of eye contact, strong body language and connect with the people you are presenting too. If you’re in a competition, make sure you connect with the judges but don’t forget the audience – they will be your source of support!

Pause for impact
When you have a big point to make, make it and then let the audience reflect on it. If it’s a REALLY BIG point, then say it again, and let the audience reflect on it. This technique also helps you calm your nerves and forces you to slow down.

Vary your volume and tone
A monotonic delivery is one of the most boring things to sit through. Vary your volume. Deliver your pitch so the group at the back of the room can hear you, vary the volume around points of interest, vary the tone, be excited, be critical, make your pitch delivery interesting. If you’re a naturally quiet person, force yourself to be “larger than life” even if it seems silly or feels funny at first. Use lots of open body language, wave your arms and talk with confidence and volume.

Understand how to use a mic
If the pitch is to a large audience, chances are you will use a microphone. The easiest technique on how to hold a mic correctly is to rest the head of the mic against your chin and speak “over the top” of the mic. This is the easiest way to make sure the mic is at a constant location proportional to your mouth. And don’t worry if you think you’re too loud, that’s the sound-tech’s problem to fix – not yours.

Love what you do!
Finally, passion sells. The more engaged, enthusiastic and entertaining you are the more likely someone wants to have a conversation with you afterwards. Love your idea, and let that love show through your delivery. Being passionate is as simple as loving what you do, believe it and others will too.

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