Craig Miller has been in his share of pitch meetings. Some of which have gone well, and some not so much. About a year ago, he started doing stand-up comedy and now looks back in horror at the presentations he used to give. His column for Adweek reveals what doing stand-up has taught him about how to pitch.
It’s Not the Audience — It’s You
When a comic bombs, everyone in the audience knows whose fault it is: they came to laugh, and the comic just didn’t cut it. In a presentation, your audience may be less predisposed to enjoy what you have to say, but it’s still up to you to charm and excite them. Evaluate your presentation honestly in a mirror, or maybe by making a selfie video — you’ll see what’s really working and what’s not.
Practice Makes Perfect
There’s no substitute for practicing your performance over and over until it works. Nail it down, and get rid of all the “ums” and “uhs” unless you want your audience to think you aren’t ready. Acknowledged sales genius Steve Jobs went over and over his keynote addresses before presenting them. Should you do any less?
Delivery Is Everything
Miller tells a story in which a comic has “been rehearsing for weeks on a new joke she’s sure is great. And yet, she hasn’t yet gotten the laugh she expected from it. She’s tried delivering it with different facial expressions, inflections, gestures, attitudes and still no laughs. But finally, today, she adds a slight raise of the eyebrow, a slight roll of the tongue, and rips into the punch line with a newfound sense of gusto. The audience explodes with laughter.”
He points out that comedy isn’t funny until the delivery makes it so.
Be Ready for Anything, and Plow Through With Confidence
Things will happen during your pitch. Phones may ring; people may drop stuff. Be so prepared that you can keep going once the room’s had a chance to settle just a little. Miller says, “None of these things can be controlled. What I can control is how I react to it.” The very last thing you ever want to show is a lack of confidence or certainty about what you’re saying.
Miller has two ideas for things you can do to strengthen your mad pitching skills:
- Take a stand-up comedy class: If you can make your class members laugh, meetings will seem much less daunting.
- Deck obsession isn’t useful: Getting every last word and image nailed down in your PowerPoint is not nearly as important as being well rested and well rehearsed. It’ll still just be a PowerPoint. You’re what’s going to bring the magic.
Friends call Miller brave for doing this, but he says presenting a pitch to clients is far scarier. An audience in a club is there to laugh, and they’re likely to be, shall we say, “lubricated.” In a conference room, your audience is there to say “no” in the cold, harsh light of a business day. But, with some planning and practice, there’s no reason you can’t blow the roof off the joint.
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