Pitch perfect: Top tips for a winning presentation

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A pitch is more than a presentation, it's a process. And a difficult one at that. Angela Munroe, B2B marketing lead UK & Ireland at Microsoft Devices, shares 10 tips to help you ensure that yours is the winning bid. 

Microsoft Devices is a supporter of BusinessZone's small business competition The Pitch 2014.

1.Plan your pitch
 
You’re going to be busy. Time might not be on your side, but organise yourself so you feel in control. Draw up and stick to a schedule.  Be sure to build in time to create and curate your ideas and practice your presentation.
Use technology to help you and your pitch partners work together.  Apps such as OneNote and EverNote allow you to capture your ideas, update your to-do lists and share them with the team wherever you are.  And document sharing makes it easy to work collaboratively on a master presentation without getting confused by multiple versions.
 
2.Get a head start
 
Don’t wait for the big day to make a good impression.  Engage your audience before the presentation so that when you walk into the room they’re already on your side.
Face to face is best.  Can you create opportunities to interview key stakeholders?  If not, how about emailing over a couple of insightful questions on their brief?  Never be afraid to ask questions, but be sure to reflect the responses in your pitch.
 
3.Understand your audience
 
There’s a wealth of information that you can access for free online. Do your homework on the company you’re presenting to and the challenges they face. 
 
The most compelling ideas come from a deep understanding of the ultimate target audience, your client’s customer. Take time to understand what makes them tick. 
 
But don’t stop there. Look at the people who are going to be in the room too.  Use tools such as LinkedIn to research the key decision makers and help you understand where they’re coming from and what they are likely to be looking for. If you have contacts in common, try and find out more about the personalities involved.  And, if they’re happy to endorse you for skills relevant to the particular bid, great.
 
4.Know your strengths
 
No-one expects you to know it all and no-one wants to work with someone who pretends they do.  Be brutally honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, your own and those of your business, in relation to the particular job you are pitching for. Plug gaps in your skill set with external expertise. Show the client that you’re the kind of person that other talented people want to work with.
 
5.Get to the point
 
First, make sure your thinking is tight and that you have a compelling proposition; a point to make.  Then, be concise and clear in how you make it.  Meeting rooms can be stuffy at the best of times.  Make sure you’re not the one filling them with hot air.
 
Lift your thinking with the elevator test. Sum up your proposal in less than 30 words and test it with those you trust. If they don't get it straight away, then there’s a high chance the audience you're pitching to won't either. 
One of the pet pitch hates that clients talk to me about is the time spent reiterating their brief. Spend time in the run up to the meeting checking you’ve answered it, but don’t grind through the gears in the presentation.  And remember that you’re not there to sell your business, you are there to persuade them that you have the best solution for theirs.  Your credentials are of no interest unless they are relevant to this particular task.
 
6.Be match fit
 
Pitch is all about the quality of sound.  And, to make sure you sound good on the day, you need plenty of practice.  Ask a colleague to be a pitch doctor and challenge your presentation.  Use your smartphone or tablet to record your presentation, play it back and critique yourself.  Would you buy from you if you were them?
 
Field your strongest team for the presentation and make sure everyone is fully prepared. Identify possible questions, great answers and plan who is going to answer what on the day to avoid a scramble (or silence) in front of the client.
 
Delivering a pitch presentation can be nerve-racking (it's OK to be nervous, it means you care), so make sure technology is on your side.  This starts with using kit that you’re familiar with.  Download an app that allows you to use the mobile phone you know and love as a remote control. 
 
7.Create a conversation
 
Make your pitch interactive and engaging to avoid chart-induced coma. Everyone loves a story, and technology can help you tell them one that brings their brand to life.
 
Use 'you' more than 'I', get the balance right between talking and listening and be open to suggestions.  Everyone likes an idea they’ve been part of shaping, so give your audience the opportunity to put their scent on yours.
 
8.Be yourself
 
Be the best you can be, on a good day, obviously, but be natural. 
 
You’re only human and humans make mistakes.  If you have one of those out-of-body meeting experiences where you find yourself waffling and thinking "what was the point I was trying to make again?" don't plough on regardless. Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Acknowledge your error. Smile. And move on. They’ll like you for it.  And the more they like you, the more likely they are to buy from you.
 
9.Convert the try
 
When you get to the end of the presentation, your work has only just begun. Think of meaningful ways to extend the conversation and make sure your bid is the one they remember.  A crunchy and compelling one page summary is a useful leave behind.  Follow up on questions that you weren’t able to answer and, if there are things you wish you’d said, say them by email.  With mobile technology, you can get on with this on the train home.  Skip this stage if you've already won the business.
 
10.Learn along the way
 
You won't get it right every time.  No one does.  Think about what you’d do differently next time, but don’t beat yourself up.
 
You're bound to have made valuable contacts, so be sure to stay in touch with them. And think about how you can use what you've learnt to generate other new business opportunities. After all, tomorrow is another day.
Microsoft Devices is sponsoring BusinessZone’s Technology Update. For the latest tech news and advice, click here.
Angela Munroe
Marketing Lead UK & Ireland
Microsoft (Nokia)
Blogger
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