I’ve met with many inspiring leaders who have successfully pitched their brands in the face of intense competition. Their presentations share three qualities. They are understandable, memorable, and emotional.
1. Understandable. Inspiring pitches are free of jargon and contrived phrases. Phrases such as "best-of-breed" and "cutting-edge solution provider" mean nothing and are used so frequently, in fact, that relying on these empty phrases will make you sound like everyone else, not different. Eliminate buzzwords and jargon from your conversation.
Sell the benefit behind your product or service quickly and with simple words. The brain likes to conserve energy. Don’t make it too hard for people to understand what you do. I remember the first time I met with executives for a leading maker of CT scanning machines. They were about to launch a new device they said would "revolutionize" medicine. I was taken aback when they described it this way: "Ours is the first dynamic volume CT that utilizes 320 ultra high-resolution detector rows to image an entire organ in a single gantry rotation."
"Can you repeat that in plain English?" I asked.
"Sure," they said. "If you suffer a stroke, this machine will give doctors the ability to make an accurate diagnosis in less time, which can save your life." Enough said. Have the courage to keep things simple and understandable.
2. Memorable. Your pitch will most certainly fail if nobody can remember it. One effective way of making your ideas easy to remember is by using analogies and metaphors to compare the idea, product or service with something that your audience is more familiar with.
One of my favorite analogies came from the executive of a giant microprocessor manufacturer. The company had launched a new chip for enterprise servers. When IT professionals shop for servers, they typically look for machines that are fast, capable of "serving" a lot of data, and consume less energy. This particular executive said that if the same technology had been used to build an airplane, the plane would have the speed of an F-16, the cargo capacity of a jumbo jet, and the fuel efficiency of a glider. It was a marvelous analogy that captured the attention of customers, analysts, and journalists who covered the product launch.
3. Emotional. I recently helped the chief executive of a large agricultural commission prepare for an important leadership conference where he had been asked to deliver the keynote address. Before we even opened the PowerPoint deck, I asked him questions meant to elicit emotional responses: What are you passionate about? What do you want your audience to know about you? He told me a very moving story about being a third-generation California farmer and how proud he was of what his father had accomplished. I recommended he end his presentation with that story and to show a simple slide with a photograph of him and his father. At the end, one man walked up to the speaker and told him he hoped he could have the same relationship with his son.
I’m absolutely convinced that every presentation intended to inspire and persuade should have at least one or two stories—the more personal, the better. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can’t forge an emotional connection with your audience, it doesn’t matter.
Inspire your listeners by making your pitch understandable, memorable, and emotional.
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