“Project! Project! Project!” Those were the words she was mouthing to me as I made my presentation.
She was my boss. By Project she meant speak louder.
The panel we were presenting to was hostile.
You could see it in their eyes. They looked down on us. We were like beggars who’d come to scrape their crumbs without permission. And trying to imagine them naked on the toilet or having sex didn’t make me less nervous.
She wanted me to speak louder because no word spoken at this pitch could go to waste. Even though the client wasn’t paying us for the pitch, we’d spent too much money and time to put it all together.
Trouble is, I was already speaking as loud as I could. I sounded loud enough in my ears. And now, with the added pressure of “Project! Project! Project!” my nerves went crazy.
This pitch would not end well, and everybody would want to blame the creative department, especially the guy who made the presentation.
Why do we get incredibly nervous at presentations? Mouths dry up, armpits drip, stomachs rumble, why? It’s the fear of the unknown. What are they going to say? What if I choke? What if they don’t like me?
But by watching other people do it, I learnt that every presentation is a show. It’s a performance. The trick is to make the show appear natural enough that only those who know you privately will see that you’re putting on a show.
Now, I’ve devised a method to the acting. My show begins with putting the work together. Whatever I’m going to sell should impress me. If I’m not impressed by it, I can’t sell it.
After that, everything is about my mood. Being in a good mood boosts my confidence and helps me inhale more air to calm my nerves. Also, there’ll be no need to imagine anyone on the crapper when I’m pitching them, even if I’m meeting the panelists for the first time.
Good to note, though, everyone gets better with practice. I’ve made, like, 1000 presentations now– live, on the phone, on Skype, conference calls, and so on. And each one taught me something about the art of presentation.
So, quickly, here’s a list for killing at pitches:
- An impressive material. Having an impressive material that’s you’ve also mastered makes you ready to talk about it.
- Rehearsal. Whether with a team or doing it solo, rehearsals help you collect a list of phrases that’ll do the job. You may make a note of these phrases.
- The outfit. Suitable for occasion and comfortable. I have to be able to move and breathe in the clothes and shoes, no matter how cool they look. Also have some mint or gum handy. And be hydrated— I prefer water.
- Breathing. If it’s an audience I’m already familiar with or superior to, nervousness is minimal. But strangers, large audiences, and bosses are a bit hard. So breathe big and slow until your heart slows down and your voice is calm.
- The Audience. Speaking of strangers, thanks to the Web, you can reduce the distance between you and many strangers by looking them up. That way, I find a common ground and something that makes them human. I also try to break the ice before the presentation starts. There are many ways to do that.
- Friendlies. If someone smiles at you or nods, speak to that person, even though you turn frequently to others on the panel. If they’re all nodding and smiling, you’re in luck. You can have a conversation with this audience.
- Project. As part of breathing, projection exercises help. Speaking at a controlled, confident, and deep level is what I go for.
- PowerPoint no-no. The deck is a guide, not to be read aloud line by line.
- The Mood. I have several playlists of mood-boosting songs. I put one on repeat for hours until the pitch kicks off.
Here’s a fovourite Pitch Playlist of mine
- Numb/Encore – Link Park/Jay Z
- Your Song – Rita Ora
- Fight Song – Rachel Platten
- Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
- Roar – Katy Perry
- Undisputed – MI
- Titanium ft. Sia – David Guetta
- It’s a Beautiful Day – Michael Bublé
- All I Do Is Win ft. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross – DJ Khaled
- Turn Down for What (Official Remix) ft. Juicy J, 2 Chainz, French Montana – DJ Snake/Lil Jon
- Ladies and Gentlemen – Reekado Banks (oh the bassline on this one!)
- I Love Lagos – Olamide
- Jagaban Remix ft. Olamide – Ycee
- Livin’ la Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
- Despacito ft. Justin Bieber – Luis Fonsi/ Daddy Yankee
- Good Feeling – Flo Rida
- Feel This Moment ft. Christina Aguilera- Pitbull
- Man’s Not Hot (MC Mix)- Big Shaq/Lethal Bizzle/Chip/ Krept & Konan
- Fela Kuti – Wyclef Jean
Thank you for your attention. I’ll now take your questions….