The ENGEN Pitch & Polish workshop and competition programme which is sponsored by Engen, Nedbank and Raizcorp, is now entering its tenth year. As part of the celebrations, the creator of the project and CEO of Raizcorp, Allon Raiz, shares a few slightly more obscure pitching tips that aren’t often mentioned but which are undeniably important. Bearing these tips in mind will benefit not only entrepreneurs who are entering this year’s competition, but also entrepreneurs of all walks who need to pitch their ideas or businesses effectively.
1. Work the room
A mistake that is commonly made by entrepreneurs when pitching is that, owing to their nerves, they tend to direct their pitches to a single point in the audience or to the judges (investors) exclusively. It is extremely important for you to “work” the entire room by moving your focus and projecting your voice to all parts of the room. And, of course, you should always include all of the judges.
2. Use hand gestures
If you were to make a study of the great orators and leaders of the world, one thing would become apparent – they almost always use hand gestures to underscore important points. They use gesticulations deliberately and effectively. This doesn’t mean that you should act like a windmill and wave your arms around constantly. Just be aware that movement can be a powerful tool when used correctly, and one that is often not used enough.
3. The power of the pause
Even though the Pitch & Polish contestant must contend with time constraints (just like a real-life pitching situation), it is important to design your pitch in such a way as to include sufficient moments for long (one to three second) pauses. A pause serves to punctuate an important point, allowing the listeners the time to process the information and then drawing them into the next point. When used properly, the pause is a potent tool that allows the pitcher to come across as confident and masterful.
4. Authenticity has power
There is often far too much emphasis placed on the perfectly polished pitch, in other words, a pitch that has been polished to such a degree that it feels inauthentic. Even though it is extremely important for you to practice your pitch and thoroughly understand its structural sequence, it is critical not to deliver your pitch in a way that seems contrived or overly rehearsed. Whatever you do, you should never sound like those cheesy television infomercials that feature salespeople with gleaming teeth offering you the deal of a lifetime and – just wait – if you call now, you’ll get x, y and z free! Remember, people buy from people they can trust, so always ensure that your pitch conveys your authentic connection to your product or service.
5. Have fun!
Just like real investors or customers, the Pitch & Polish audience and judging panel can very quickly pick up on a pitch that is stiff with the contestant clearly experiencing difficulties in its delivery. When entrepreneurs seem to be having fun, when they can laugh at their mistakes, and when they smile genuinely, it helps to relax the audience and judges endearing them to the pitcher. Your mind-set needs to be, “This is a fantastic experience that I am learning from. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose.” Your ability to disconnect from the outcome will make your pitch flow with a sense of ease and comfort. Having fun is infectious and far more endearing than sounding like a robot.
To register to attend or enter the competition, visit the website at www.pitchandpolish.com where you will also find a list of all the towns and dates – you can also SMS your name to 43719.