“Between a flirt and power game”: tips for public speaking

#pitch #demoday #startup #hackathon #accelerator

”Public speaking is something between a flirt and a power game”. Bianca Praetorius understands that for most startups co-founders, finding this balance between passion and precision when pitching their product, can be quite a big challenge.

A training session with Bianca goes beyond talks about pitch decks: it includes tips on body language, voice projection and techniques on how to decode the audiences poker-face.

Her expertise comes from a background of studying to become an actress — and then realizing that her real passion was not to perform on stage, but to help “tech people” to be better at it.

1 — What are the three most common mistakes startups usually make when pitching?

The most common mistake that surprises me still is that teams basically use the deck they send out to VCs to make their presentations. They don’t understand that the storyline is different: you just dont flood your things with text because you make people sleep and it’s terrible.

The second mistake is that they think they can improvise it. You are naive if you think you can just improvise in pitch events and competitions. The the most effective way is to actually write a script. You don’t have to know it by heart, but you have to free your brain from trying to make the decision on what you’re going to say next.

The third mistake is not spending much time on the design. Design or slide deck isn’t expensive but to have somebody who actually makes the design pushes your team to look more professional. You can work on it once you’ve build your deck, hand it to someone who can make the slide looks much better and also makes you love your slide much more. Ideally you have this designer in your team.

Pitch training with Batch 5 right before Demo Day

2 — Talking in front of a big crowd is not an easy task. Any tips on how to be more confident before the pitch?

The number one thing is to understand that the feeling of being nervous will never go away. Until these days — and this has been my job for years now — I still get nervous. And that is because I‘ve got something to lose.

The way to deal with anxiety is: try to be conscient of your body, as much as possible. The more you use your body, the more your brain thinks that you’re actually not afraid, understanding that your body is a tool. Breath systematically in and out and basically do a slight meditation before, repeat to yourself “I’m relaxed” until you actually start being relaxed.

And then once you are on stage, try to (really!) mean what you say. I know it might sound very cheesy, but when you mean what you say and you look at the people and tell them, you’re focus shifts from being anxious and looking at your internal emotions to actually delivering the content you care about. Get a connection with the people you are talking to, this will lead you to have more presence on stage and have less fear.

3 — Realizing that you are losing the attention from the audience might make one even more nervous. Any tricks on how to get the attention back?

If you have the feeling that you are losing audience engagement, don’t trust it. People might look at you with very bored faces, that doesn’t mean they are bored. it just means that they are part of an audience so there’s’ no human need to feedback you. My first advice is: don’t trust this feeling too soon.

My second advice is: if someone is not engaged in your pitch, you won’t be able to get him/her back. And it’s probably not the person you want to talk to after all, so don’t take it personally. But if you want to try to get him/her back: make a pause.

If you stop talking and be very slow, the opposite of what you feel like, overly confident, people actually might hear it again. The best you can do to get people to be engaged again is to be as contactful as possible. and that also means to take the time to speak, really, not be a professional presenting robot.

Some extra tips:

  • “Precision is king”
  • Curb your enthusiasm: don´t brag too much about how awesome your product is. Sure, you can be excited about it, but give the audience a chance to figure out the “amaziness” on their own
  • Want tips on how to come up with short, simple sentences? Go watch some children TV series
  • Think about the tone you are speaking: “voice carries power”

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