“Project! Project! Project!” Those were the words she was mouthing at me as I made my presentation.
She was my boss. By Project, she meant speak louder.
The panel to which we were presenting was visibly hostile.
You could see it in their eyes. They looked down on us. We were like beggars who’d barged into their living room to scrape crumbs off their coffee table without permission. And trying to imagine them naked on the toilet or having sex wasn’t making me less nervous.
She wanted me to speak louder because no word spoken at this pitch could go to waste. Even though the client wasn’t paying us for this pitch, we’d spent too much money and time to put it all together.
Trouble is: I was already speaking as loudly as I could. The decibel of my voice in my ears was deafening. And now, with the added pressure of “Project! Project! Project!” my nerves were going crazy.
At this rate, this pitch wouldn’t end well, and, naturally, everybody would want to blame the creative department, especially the guy who made the presentation.
Now, why do we get incredibly nervous at presentations? Mouths dry up, armpits drip, stomachs rumble, why?
It’s the fear of the unknown. What are they going to say? What if I choke? What if they don’t like me?
But by watching other people do it, I’ve learnt that every presentation is a show. It’s a performance. The trick is to make the show appear so natural that only those who know you privately can tell that this is not the real you, that you’re putting on a show.
Which is why I’ve devised a method for the acting. My show begins with putting the work together. Whatever I’m going to sell should first impress me. I have to buy it first. If I’m not buying by it, I can’t sell it.
After that, everything comes down to my mood. Being in a good mood boosts my confidence and helps me inhale more air to calm my nerves. Also, there’ll be no need to imagine anyone on the crapper when I’m pitching them, even if I’m meeting the panelists for the first time.
However, it’s good to note that, when it comes to presentations, everyone gets better with practice. I’ve now made, like, 1200 presentations – live, on the phone, on Zoom, conference calls, and so on. And each one has taught me something about the art of presentation itself.
So, quickly, here’s my list for killing at pitches:
- An impressive material. Having an impressive material that’s you’ve also mastered makes you ready to talk about it.
- Rehearsal. Whether with a team or doing it solo, rehearsals help you collect a list of phrases that’ll do the job. You may make a note of these phrases.
- The getup. Suitable for occasion and comfortable. I have to be able to move and breathe in the clothes and shoes, no matter how cool they look. Also have some mint or gum handy. And be hydrated— I prefer water.
- Breathing. If it’s an audience I’m already familiar with or superior to, nervousness is minimal. But strangers, large audiences, and bosses are a bit hard. So breathe big and slow until your heart slows down and your voice is calm.
- The Audience. Speaking of strangers, thanks to the Web, you can reduce the distance between you and many strangers by looking them up. That way, I find a common ground and something that makes them human. I also try to break the ice before the presentation starts. There are many ways to do that.
- Friendlies. If someone smiles at you or continues to nod, speak to that person, even though you’d turn frequently to others on the panel. If they’re all nodding and smiling, you’re in luck. This is an audience with which you can have a sweet conversation.
- Project. As part of breathing, projection exercises help. Speaking at a controlled, confident, and deep level is what I go for.
- PowerPoint no-no. The deck is a guide, not to be read aloud line by line. As you show them the deck, tell your story.
- Don’t speak too fast. We tend to say a million words a minute when we fear that people may not be listening to us. Catch yourself. Get back to a commanding pace with punchy words (“absolutely”, “revolutionary”, “exceptional”, “excellent”, “outstanding”, “brilliant”, etcetera). It shows confidence. (refer to Steve Jobs product keynotes.)
- The Mood. It helps if you’re in high spirits. For my personal use, I have created several playlists of mood-boosting songs. I put one on repeat for hours until the pitch kicks off.
Here’s a fovourite Pitch Playlist of mine:
- Numb/Encore – Link Park/Jay Z
- Your Song – Rita Ora
- Fight Song – Rachel Platten
- Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
- Roar – Katy Perry
- Undisputed – MI
- Titanium ft. Sia – David Guetta
- It’s a Beautiful Day – Michael Bublé
- All I Do Is Win ft. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross – DJ Khaled
- Turn Down for What (Official Remix) ft. Juicy J, 2 Chainz, French Montana – DJ Snake/Lil Jon
- Ladies and Gentlemen – Reekado Banks (oh the bassline on this one!)
- I Love Lagos – Olamide
- Baba ft. Kizz Daniel — Spinall
- Jagaban Remix ft. Olamide – Ycee
- Livin’ la Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
- Good Feeling – Flo Rida
- Feel This Moment ft. Christina Aguilera- Pitbull
- Man’s Not Hot (MC Mix)- Big Shaq/Lethal Bizzle/Chip/ Krept & Konan
- Fela Kuti – Wyclef Jean
- Cheap Thrills ft. Sean Paul — Sia
- Don’t Stop the Music — Rihanna
Thank you for your attention. I’ll now take your questions….