Vincent, co-founder of the French marketing startup Tiresio, pitching to 250 investors at the stage of Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator in the heart of Berlin

5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Next Pitch Presentation

written by Ole Tillmann

The ability to convince other people of your ideas is a crucial skill. Within an organization, this kind of communication is important for transmitting new knowledge from one person or group to all the others. Plus if you need to raise funding, recruit the best talent to your workforce, or build up your network of collaborators, you will need to present your idea in a concise and persuasive way. Because if you can’t win over enough supporters, your great idea will never get off the ground to become a business.

To make your next presentation a successful one, here are 5 things to keep in mind when crafting your pitch:

  1. Know Your Purpose

Take a few moments to think about why you want to pitch your idea. What is your desired outcome? What are your personal and professional reasons? Your listeners always want to know your intentions. So before you step in front of your audience, make sure your purpose is crystal-clear to yourself.

Action: Take 5–10 minutes to create a bulleted list of your personal and professional reasons for pitching.

2. Focus on Your Audience

Effective communication is always receiver-oriented. Gain as much empathy for your audience as possible by asking yourself who exactly you are going to talk to. This is the only way you can align your intentions with your audience’s needs. They need to understand what your idea is about and what’s in it for them from the first lines of your pitch. Ultimately, the presentation is more about your audience than it is about you.

Action: Write down who will be sitting in front of you and divide your audience into segments. Prioritize the most important group. What’s their specific background and depth of knowledge, and what are their business objectives?

3. Think Prototypes

Structuring your thinking takes time. So start working on your pitch presentation the moment you come up with your idea. Sketch a first, rough draft of your storyboard and keep iterating on that. And share your ideas right from the start, because you get valuable feedback every time. Harvest this feedback and integrate it into your pitch. This is what makes your presentation better and sharper over time.

Action: Use some sticky notes and a marker to create a first draft of your presentation.

4. Simplicity is Key

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This quote from Albert Einstein contains a lot of truth. Try to distill your thoughts down to easy-to-understand core messages. This will help you clarify what you want to say. And if you have a clear picture of your idea, your audience will too.

Be aware that every audience has a limit to the amount of information they can process. If you overwhelm them with too much information, you could lose their attention.

Action: Create some catchy messages for your overall presentation. Think of them as headlines in a newspaper. If you plan to use slides, there’s a good rule of thumb for keeping things simple: one slide for each idea or concept.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Just like a comedian rehearses for their show or an athlete trains for a competition, you should be practicing your presentation as well. Present it out loud several times — this will boost your confidence. Rehearsing may also help you identify potential pitfalls when it comes to pronunciation, or to refine the phrasing to describe your idea.

Action: Find a quiet room and create a setup that is as close as possible to to the real pitch day situation — projector, slides, story and all. Rehearse your talk, and invite some colleagues to give feedback.

Crafting a successful presentation takes time. There are no shortcuts. You have to go through the whole creative process yourself. For your next 5-minute pitch, factor in up to 30 hours for creating your storyline and the storyboard, 20–30 hours for building your slides, and 10–15 hours for rehearsing.