Published September 20, 2012
Conventional wisdom advises businesses to have a good elevator pitch. But traditional “pitch decks” are often dry and static, resulting in ineffective one-way communications. Today more than ever, businesses need to zoom outside the slide with pitches that dynamically engage their audience regardless of whether that audience consists of employees, partners, investors, or customers.
Topozoo, a line of eco-friendly toys, knew that they had a story to tell but had to figure out how to bring it to potential customers. Ryan Hamilton, President and CEO of Geared for Imagination, the maker of Topozoo, says, “We had the challenge of trying to communicate about a product that is kind of a puzzle, and kind of an imaginative play pattern type of toy.”
Hamilton wanted to develop a pitch that was attention grabbing and told his company’s story in a unique way. First he mapped out the Topozoo story on a digital canvas and then added elements that would engage the audience and tell the story in a dynamic way. The result was a highly-visual pitch that landed the company business with Whole Foods and the Smithsonian Institute.
“The non-linear storytelling structure made our pitch more human. It was akin to working on a whiteboard and giving someone access to our brainscape,” says Hamilton.
The following tips will help you to craft a business pitch that scores big:
Stories vs. Facts: This common wisdom for storytellers is often forgotten by presenters. Whenever developing a presentation it’s important that you don’t just string together facts, but weave together a compelling narrative. We are emotional creatures who relate to and remember characters and stories more than facts and statistics. Just compare these two news titles: “Hurricane Isaac damages could hit $1.5 billion” and “Family that lost house to Katrina, loses rebuilt house to Isaac”.
The Medium is the Message: Renowned media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s 50-year-old adage has never been truer. We are increasingly bombarded with messages from an ever-expanding number of communication channels. Choosing the right media to engage your target audience is key. If your pitch is formatted like a report, it will be perceived as a report. If you show relationships between concepts and move between big picture and details, you will be inviting audiences to a conversation about your company and your ideas.
Presentations are a Two-Way Street: Great presentations are shaped by your audience and their questions. If you’re well prepared on the day of your pitch, then you allow audience questions to guide the conversation, allowing you to address audience concerns and dispel misconceptions. Rather practicing for a water tight spiel, practice addressing potential concerns of your audience. In doing so, you are able to make a stronger case for your ideas and assuage doubts.
Mobility Matters More and More: Whether it’s on an iPad or a pocket projector, you can reduce the bulkiness of carrying around heavy laptops and be ready for impromptu pitching. Optimize your presentation to be viewed on mobile platforms. On a small screen it is even more important to limit text in place of powerful visuals.
Remembrance of Things Spatial: From an early age we learn to spatially relate things to one another-- you might visualize your kitchen sink your refrigerator and how to walk in between the two. This spatial memory is not limited to the physical world around us but also in the stories that we consume. Therefore, think of your presentations as a virtual space through which you want to guide your audience. By arranging ideas spatially on an open canvas such as a whiteboard or a Prezi you can help people to remember more of your story.
Most of us in business are passionate about sharing our ideas, but we often don’t spend enough time honing the message for our target audiences or choosing the best medium to best convey it. For this reason many a great idea has gone unnoticed until it is too late--the employee quits, customers’ attention wanes, or worse, someone else steals your idea. Spend the time to develop your ideas and share them in such a powerful way that your target audience can’t help but to notice.
This column was written by Peter Arvai, CEO of Prezi. Prezi is the zooming presentation software with the mission to make sharing ideas more fun and engaging.