Posted by: hmchang | January 26, 2008

Books: The Art of The Start: Ch3 – The Art Of Pitching

 

(picture source: http://www.guykawasaki.com/books/cover/000b.jpg)

Summary of the most important concept:

In Chapter 3, Guy Kawasaki talks about the art of pitching and powerpointing. The word pitching, as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

3 a: to present or advertise especially in a high-pressure way : plug promote b: to attempt to persuade especially with a sales pitch c: to present (a movie or program idea) for consideration (as by a TV producer)

In short, a pitch is intended to “persuade” others. Therefore, an ideal pitch should be very convincing, back up with careful studies and be effective. An important concept is that pitching is not only toward investors: you pitch your friends, pitch your customers, and pitch your employees. Pitching is important for others to understand your business, giving feedback and reaching any agreement.

A successful pitch, as explained by Guy, needs a lot of refinements and practices. Let one of your team members, preferably the CEO, do the whole pitch. He/She as a CEO needs to fully understand the details that are expressed in the pitch. Other members can answer detailed questions on specific functional segments when being asked. Having one person giving the whole pitch makes the presentation smoother and it is also easier to control time.

Guy suggests using the 10/20/30 rule in pitching: ten slides, twenty minutes, thirty-point-font text. Slides are used to lead presentation and you should be the main character. Don’t contain too much information but contain “enough” information and “stimulate interest”.

Having a good start is critical for a pitch. Arrive early, get multiple laptops and bring your own projectors since you should be responsible for setting up the stage. ALWAYS do research to understand who your audience is. What is their background and what do they expect based on their background. With this information, it will be easier to shape a pitch toward audiences’ interest – and make your speech more effective.

What it takes for a successful pitch? Practice, practice and practice. 25 times is what Guy suggested to reach a satisfactory pitch. The audience during your practice pitches does not need to be the investors. Take notes on every feedback you get and review how you should address those feedbacks after each practice. Also follow through any questions that you failed to answer – that give good impression on others.

Lessons Learned:

Pitching is an inevitable stage for fund-raising. The most useful part for me is the 10/20/30 rule since I intend to talk for a long period of time without really touching the key points. Confining my presentation into 10 slides would force me think about what are the most important messages to convey. Furthermore, whenever I give a talk, I do not always know who will be the audience. As Guy pointed out, understanding the audience’s background and adjust the 10 slides that best fits their interest is also important. Since not every slide can fit all the audience, always need to research the target audience and then customize to make the presentation more effective.

It is also good for me to know that pitching are not just for investors or fund-raising — it is for stimulating interest toward some agreements. Therefore, sufficient information is enough. In fact, we don’t need to bombard the audience with irrelevant information and we can keep the presentation succinct and shorten presentation time.

The presentation skills covered in this book and in the Entrepreneurship class are useful not only in pitching but for any presentations. General guidelines on PowerPoint are very useful, but some suggestions may not always fit every case. Since the slides serve as guidance for the presentation, as long as using animation, pictures, tables, etc flow well with the presentation, they will become effective. Nevertheless, the general suggestion on don’t put too much information on a single slide and graphs are better than texts are very useful.

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