Startup founders often review their pitch deck thousands of times before they go in front of investors. But study after study show that presentations — and their influence over audiences — are more about the presenter, not the content.
Last week, best-selling author, speaker, executive coach Peggy Klaus led a workshop to a group of candidates from theBoardlist here in San Francisco. The focus was on personal branding for board service and included several tips that more broadly applied, would be incredibly helpful for founders to practice before pitching their startup to potential investors.
- Inner/Outer Monologues — founders are notoriously passionate about their projects, but some days it’s difficult to convey your sense of urgency and passion to others. Peggy recommends saying one or more of the following phrases out loud, if the situation permits, with exaggerated levels of enthusiasm and passion (what she calls going over-the-top) before you leave home, in your car on the way to your presentation or even in the bathroom before you speak: I can’t wait to tell you this! I’m so excited! I’m so happy to be here! Sit down and listen because I’ve got something fabulous to tell you! You’ll definitely feel silly being so over-the-top and outside your comfort zone, but practicing this out loud or internally in a very exaggerated way will help you convey the excitement you’re feeling.
- Walk it Around — Peggy calls this “lifting it off the page” in order to make your pitch sound conversational, fluid and exciting. Much better than standing in front of a mirror, which limits your movement and energy, she suggests that you first walk around the room continuously to loosen up, and then gain momentum by saying your outer monologues such as the ones above in an Over the Top manner. Once you’ve gotten your pitch out on your tongue a few times, start to paraphrase it until you are comfortable with the flow and meaning. And never, ever memorize the information or your presentation will sound canned.
- Be Your Best Self — you know how you feel when you are at your best— when you’re with your family or friends, when you’re totally relaxed, when you’re ‘on’ and feeling authentically you? Well, that’s how you want to feel when you’re pitching. Practice by talking about something you love (ex: your partner, your kids, friend or family members, favorite band or hobby, etc.). Pay attention to how your face feels when you smile while you’re talking about them. Then, remember that feeling as you present.
- Take Up Space — body language is so important. Some people find it helpful to strike a power pose right before going on stage or entering a room, such as hands on hips a la Wonder Woman, or the rock star pose with hands up in the air. Find your favorite Power Pose and hold it for at least a minute before you give your pitch. This can help raise your testosterone and cortisone levels and help you feel more confident.
Want to learn more? Peggy is teaming up with theBoardlist to offer 1–3 day small groups intensives with topics to include developing your bragologues, launching your personal branding and marketing plan and Executive Presence, among others. For more information, email email@example.com