Specsy hit the big leagues this week! We entered our first ever pitch competition at Decoded Fashion Summit in New York and made it all the way to the finals. Not bad for first timers who had entered six days in advance.
But, let me tell you, those six days of prep were a whirlwind of practise. Here is what I learned from that experience:
1. Practise, practise, practise. And once you think you have it down pat, practise some more. I know everyone says practise makes perfect and it’s easy to say “good enough”, but the second you get a room full of critical eyes on you, you’ll be thankful that you have the entire pitch on autopilot. This leaves you free to concentrate on other important things during the pitch, like breathing. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Remember to breathe. Not so much in a zen, meditative way (although that helps), more like, remember to take normally spaced human breaths during the talk. Narrowing in on your breathing in the first 30 seconds helps to modulate your vocal tone and sets the pace for the entire pitch. It’s shocking how easy it is to forget something as basic as breathing once someone says “action”.
3. Pause. You are throwing a lot of new information and concepts at people. It’s important to pause and allow for the audience to digest these concepts before you continue building on them. If you rush through as quickly as possible, aiming to cram in lots of information, you will end up building a tower of information around a weak foundation. Plus, well timed pauses give you a chance to pause and breath (or catch your breath if the breathing thing got away on you)
4. Practise in front a room full of people. At least 20. An auditorium is better. You might think you are all practised up and ready to go, but you really don’t know what it’s like to deliver that pitch if you’ve only had a couple of friendly faces watch you. Do yourself a favour and make sure you know exactly how it’s going to feel looking back at a room full of blank stares before you get on that stage.
5. Think quality over quantity for content. What are your key messages? How do you want the audience to feel when you walk off that stage? Keep this in mind as you are building out your pitch. There is only so much time allotted to your pitch and limited mental capacity on the audience’s behalf. Select your key points and concisely build around them. By sticking with your main messages, there will be no questions about what you do, and how you’re going to change the world, by the time you walk off that stage.
6. Stay on time. This is part of the quality over quantity content point. Narrow in on your key points so you know exactly what you are going to say in the allotted time. It’s easy to ramble, so practise clearly and concisely getting your points across. Basically, just don’t be the person who keeps rambling over their time limit, with the host looming the back trying to get you off stage.
7. Practise the Q&A portion. Clearly and concisely answering questions is really an art in and of itself. Don’t neglect this when you practise. You don’t want to spend all that time perfecting the pitch only to leave on a poor note by fumbling the Q&A.