Does your team need to pitch better?
If your product or service is worth pitching, then it’s worth taking the time to get it right. I’ve been running lots of sessions
Pitching in teams – your quick cheat sheet.
Remember what you’re pitching.
You’re not just pitching your product or service – you’re pitching trust in your team. Very often, clients will ask you to pitch to them because emotionally they want to know ‘If we work with you, can we trust you? Are you professional? Are you, really, a team?”
For this reason, it’s not good enough just to grab a few slides, and let each team member do their bit – your entire pitch must sell the competence and credibility of the team as a whole.
Team goals and roles
You must make sure that everyone on the team understands the overall goal of the pitch, and how their section fits into that goal. Many team pitches are undermined when each person ‘does their bit’.
Play to strengths:
Some people are better at stories, some at delivering dry data. Some are better at thinking on their feet, and others like to have almost everything memorised. Don’t be afraid to increase certain people’s contributions, and reduce others. Don’t put two people with similar styles on next to each other, break them up with someone different. Pitching is a team sport, and you can’t have the whole team kicking the ball the whole time, or at the same time.
Beginnings and endings:
Everyone should ‘know their cue’. Is each person clear on what happens before they begin? Have they let the next person know how they are going to end so that the person is ready? Practising your cues a few times will reduce hesitancy and redundancies and automatically add more energy to the pitch.
Even better than just knowing their ‘cues’, each person should be able to build intrigue and suspense for what comes next. Instead of John saying ‘Ok, that’s my bit about the software, now Jane is going to talk to you about finance’ John could say: ‘I think we’re all agreed that this software will solve the problem but you’re probably wondering about whether and how we can pay for it. Well Jane’s got some interesting thoughts on that – over to you, Jane …’ That’s a small and simple change, but it keeps the audience interested and really helps your team pitch to stand out.
Technology (especially online):
Play to strengths again here. Some people are great at talking, others at pressing buttons – very few are good at both. Make sure there’s someone on your team responsible for keeping the tech running, whether online or in the real world. It’s useful to think of having a ‘producer’ who looks after things like screen share, chat boxes, plugging in the right cables and so on.
Almost all pitches get better with rehearsal, team pitches especially so. Rehearsal doesn’t mean ‘practise’ or ‘talk about it a bit’ – it means putting on a timer and running through the whole pitch without stopping no matter what happens. Yes, it feels awkward. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. But that’s the point of rehearsal – get the awkwardness and mistakes out of the way before you actually do the pitch. Even practising handing over a clicker can help!
You’ve only got two options – you either rehearse in advance, or you rehearse in front of your audience!
Decide in advance who’s going to take which questions. Is one person better at finance and another better at branding, for example? It looks polished and professional if the team know which person is going to respond to certain types of questions.
For larger pitches, one of the team can be a ‘question compere’ – this person’s job is to listen to the question, repeat the question (giving the team time to think!) And then select the person on the team they think will answer the question best.
Appoint a director
When your team pitch is really important, you need a director. It’s this person’s job to look critically at the pitch and suggest changes. They should consider questions like ‘Is this pitch likely to achieve the goal?’ ‘Does it feel like the team are working together well?’ ‘Are all the slides and visuals consistent?’ ‘Is the pitch interesting throughout – are there ‘peaks’ and ‘troughs’ to keep the audience engaged?’ ‘Are we building trust throughout, or just hiding behind slides?’ ‘If I were the audience, would I genuinely believe and be excited by this pitch?’ ‘Is it memorable and distinct, or just like all the other pitches I’ve seen?’.
If you do everything in this cheat sheet, your team pitch will be more polished and professional than 95%* of the competition, and there’s a hidden benefit too: if your team is well rehearsed and prepared, and everyone knows exactly what they are doing, then they feel more confident, and they start working better as a whole team. That confidence and obvious ability to work together transmits itself to an audience.
*Not a scientific stat, I just made it up, but based on what I’ve seen probably a conservative estimate.