Renowned writer Robert Browning first used the term ‘less is more’ in an 1855 poem. This concept basically means that doing less on a particular project can actually have more impact than doing a lot. Nowhere in the business world is this more true than when pitching your product or service, whether to investors or clients.
In the many pitches I’ve seen over the years, one of the biggest errors is incorporating too much data. Sure, you want to talk about your market and other stats, but it’s more critical that you convey a memorable and compelling message. In fact, most pitching experts recommend you limit your presentation to 10 slides if possible. That’s 10 slides with minimal information, not 10 slides crammed with as much detail as you can possibly fit.
When serving as a Pitch Coach, one of the first lessons I always share with each Pitch Team is this: Once you get to be a finalist in a bid competition, it’s highly likely that any one of the candidates can do the job. Therefore, the goal of our presentation is to find some way to be memorable, create a meaningful connection between our team and theirs, and not kill them with details.
It’s the last point that’s the biggest culprit in disengaging investors and clients. If they’re overwhelmed or bored with excessive information, it’s quite difficult for them to feel positively about your pitch … and exceedingly difficult to feel a connection.
You’ll notice that I used the word feel twice in the previous sentence. There’s a very good reason for that. Data and statistics are simply not the best way to convince your audience. While they need to be part of your pitch, research shows that, of the three elements of any persuasive pitch – Credibility, Logic/Data, and Emotions – logic and data only contribute to 25% of your persuasiveness. Credibility makes up 10%, and Emotion a whopping 65%. Reality is, humans overwhelmingly make decisions based on emotions; credibility and logic help, but emotion is what really drives choices.
Leave written documents with all the data you want for your investors/clients to read afterwards. During the pitch, address that data in a high-level manner, but resist the temptation to go down any ‘rabbit holes’ with numerous statistics and graphs. In the words of Carlos Saba, co-founder of the Happy Start Up School, “A kick-ass pitch is a clear and engaging story that makes people sit up and listen”. Think carefully about your story and make that the centrepiece of your pitch.
Jan Bailey & Shona Welsh
Jan Bailey BA, MAEd is a communication and speaking expert who has designed and delivered hundreds of workshops internationally on public speaking, stage presence, on-camera presentations, and communication. Along with writing and producing a ten-part career development series of books, Jan’s 27-year career has involved extensive on-camera experience as a television host along with being a long-time professor of communications.
Shona Welsh, BA, MCEd, CHRL, CCC is a communication and speaking expert who has won numerous speaking, writing and learning design awards. The author of several books and designer/facilitator of hundreds of international workshops in speaking and communications. She teaches extensively about leadership, communications, and innovation with numerous universities and colleges.