Dan Beverly

Pitching: more than a fundamental skill

Pitching is a fundamental skill. Whether yours is a great idea, a business, product, service or just (!) you: if we can’t articulate the message, we’ll not go far.

It’s a truism that: “we get what we pitch for”. So we’d better be able to pitch; and we’d better be good at it.

But pitching is more than a fundamental skill. The pitch we create is a foundational asset. Something we can build our offering around – not just a tagged-on afterthought that describes the thing we’ve built.

Let’s say I’m looking for my next role. Imagine: how much more cohesive my next profile will be if the first thing I do is write a pitch for me and my profile, targeted for the role I’m applying for.

And armed with that powerfully succinct statement on the essence of who I am, what I’m about, how I’m different and why I’m the perfect fit for this next role: imagine how laser-focused, outcome-driven and super-confident I’ll be at interview.

4 questions to answer

My pitch is a foundational asset. Something I can start with and build upon.

And it’s powerful not so much because it articulates the message with absolute clarity for my audience. But because it gives me absolute clarity on the message.

Building my pitch is about clarity for me. And it forces me to get crystal-clear on 4 crucial questions in particular:

  1. What is it?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. How is it different?
  4. Why now?

That last question might not have been exactly what you were expecting in a list of 4 questions every pitch needs to answer. But novelty and movement are hugely important when it comes to engaging the attention of our audience’s brain. And that’s a constant challenge. Here’s why …

The brain-based challenge of the pitch

The issue is this: our pitch is constructed and delivered from one region of the sender’s brain; but received in a quite different region of the target’s brain.

When we pitch, we engage the neocortex region of our brain. Our conscious mind. A region that loves abstract ideas, complexity, detail and generally letting everyone know how much it knows.

But because the brain’s primary function is survival; and because we’re all constantly scanning the environment to understand where we are on the threat-reward scale, our pitch is first received in a quite different region of the target’s brain.

A region that wants to ignore the message; and if not, wants to summarise and pigeon hole it. A region that decides whether the message gets passed on.

How often have you pitched with this thought in mind?

Not often. And instead, we deliver the message that feels great to us (and our brain’s neocortex). Rather than delivering a pitch that works well for the target (and their brain’s limbic system).

To architect a message that really lands with your audience’s brain, here are 9 quick-fire, brain-based secrets to augment your pitch.

9 brain-based secrets to a stellar pitch

#1 The brain resists new thinking.

  • The brain avoids slow, error-prone and resource-expensive thinking.
  • Start with the big picture vision. High-contrast, well-differentiated ideas. And that are clearly evidenced.

#2 The brain is an analogue processor.

  • The brain works not by input/output, but by analogy and metaphor.
  • Tell Stories! And in particular, human narratives that we can relate to and engage with.

#3 The brain is visual.

  • We all have a dominant sense. But to an extent, we’re all visual because visualising is such an energy-efficient way to construct and hold an idea in mind.
  • Use compelling and distinctive visuals where you can. And always ask your audience to imagine …

#4 The brain is wired to detect movement.

  • The brain can be blind to static differences. Simply holding-up two different ideas and asking the target to spot the difference is not assured. The brain needs to see movement from the old world to the new.
  • Show movement and progression. Give your idea depth and history, moving from the old world to the new world.

#5 The brain averages what it knows.

  • To form an impression, the brain doesn’t sum what it knows about an idea. It averages it. Far better to say one great thing, than one great thing watered down with three mediocre things.
  • Less really is more. Avoid the temptation to add, and keep adding. And definitely: home runs only!

#6 The brain is easily distracted.

  • The two big challenges of pitching: grabbing attention; and holding it. Holding the brain’s attention requires just the right neurochemical mix, best induced with novelty and tension.
  • Novelty: Offer something different from the competition. And a reward they want, but can’t have. Yet.
  • Tension: Have your target qualify back to you. Do they meet your standards as a customer/client/employer?

#7 The brain is emotional.

  • The brain reacts and makes decisions not on a logical level, but on an emotional level.
  • Push emotional buttons. Have a ticking clock. Introduce scarcity.

#8 The brain dislikes neediness.

  • The brain perceives neediness as a threat – and will retreat from it. Neediness is a losing strategy, everywhere and anywhere in business.
  • Eradicate neediness: want for nothing. And don’t be afraid to walk away.

#9 The brain is social.

  • The brain doesn’t know the difference between social threat and physical threat. It uses the same reward-threat circuitry.
  • Play to the social domains most important to the brain: Offer certainty. Offer autonomy. Offer social proof.

Pitch Perfect: the brain-based secrets to a stellar pitch

The thinking behind this article was originally delivered as a talk at Club Workspace in Farringdon London, February 2017.

If you’d like to see the slide deck from that talk, you can download it here: https://lnkd.in/dSsewx4

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Dan Beverly

Dan Beverly is a leadership and performance coach helping high-performing, high-achieving professional women embrace the pivotal career moments.

To work with Dan, go online to book “Session Zero” – and start capitalising on your pivotal career moment, today.