I’m constantly in and out of the offices of some of the Bahamas’ most intimidating business moguls, so I’ve been around the block a time or two – in the most non-secular way of course. From the “just shoot me now” looks to the casual, yet annoyed, Rolex glance, I’ve seen it all and had my fair share of “oh god why” moments during a pitch. However, I have also been fortunate in presenting successful pitches.
Here are a few things I’ve learned around the block:
1. Don’t open with the money.
Etiquette dictates that it’s really impolite to talk about money; however, no one told me that this carried through into the boardroom of a strange company. By saving the money talks till later, not only will you save yourself from answering countless questions that will interrupt the flow of presentation, and inevitably waste that cool slide you spent hours working on, but more importantly, your audience will be able to focus more closely to your pitch rather than picturing you as that pauper from the Red Cross they try to avoid every month.
2. Drop the “I’m from –insert pompous university- so you have to listen to my invaluable millennial ideas” smirk.
More likely than not, the people you are presenting to will not be looking for arrogant self-contained smirks but rather presentations with valuable content.
More importantly, sponsors love to see the humble side of a presenter. Bear in mind, there is a large difference between confidence and cockiness. It’s ok to have a list of credentials a mile long but your presentation should do the talking. You “casually” dropping the name of your alma mater at the beginning of your presentation would be the equivalent to screaming, “Look at me; I’m important” in a megaphone.
3. Believe in Hygiene
If you eat an onion bagel before your morning pitch, you may or may not have a hard time forgetting that bagel during your presentation.
Try to steer clear of any and all foods that will either ruin that beautiful black blazer you spent hours looking for, or worse, send a stench throughout the room to rival the wrath of the gods. Instead stick with cereal or a plain bagel.
Simply put, stick to foods that will save you from embarrassment and give you the confidence needed to get through your already intimidating pitch.
4. Don’t cry.
I remember one of meetings so vividly. I was about to make the biggest pitch of my 17 year old life, my audience was glaring at their watches visibly annoyed with my 17 year old inadequacies, frustrated that I wasting their time. I soon realized that I was a deer caught in the headlights, tears forming in the corner of eyes, my audience growing noticeably uncomfortable.
By this point, only one word had been spoken while the others that followed were lost in one big jumble in a sobbing rather shoddy attempt at explaining why their company would benefit from a youth stakeholders department. My point is simple, don’t cry. Control and understand your emotions.
Instead, take the time needed to relax your mind; a deep breath, a happy thought and a warm smile go a very long way when dealing with administrative wolves.
5. Try to picture your audience as human.
This may sound stupid at first read, but when you think about it, many of us typically place our audience on god-like pedestal. Your presentation will go much smoother when you realize that the people around the boardroom have been in your position before and have also made many human mistakes.
One final note, there is no such thing as the perfect pitch. No matter whom you speak with or where you go, there will always be someone that is going to say “not today”. Don’t let that stop you; instead, always leave the room with a gracious smile and a polite “thank-you for your time”.
Generation Y can use these tips as building blocks to further improve their pitches, but remember, building bridges takes time; be patient. Don’t be swept away by the over the top headlines from main stream media clamouring “GEN Y IS PERFECT, THEY WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING”. Be realistic, not naïve. In order to be successful, you must understand that no one owes you anything, you have to earn the time and respect of those around you in order to truly make a difference.