Hi, I'm Cliff Atkinson - an author, speaker and consultant who unlocks the true value of clear communication

How to gain the edge to win your next pitch

The COO of a $1.1 billion company recently walked into a meeting room with his team to give a pitch worth $25 million annually.

They had spent years preparing to bid on the contract, and today was a pivotal moment, when he and his competitors each had an hour to make a positive impression and persuade his audience to award the bid to the best candidate.11080482376_602d236a44_b

There was no guarantee his company would win, so his team needed an edge that would increase their chances of winning, and they brought me in to help them find it.

After working together for a week, his team gave the pitch, and when he walked out of the room he immediately sent an email to his CEO saying,

This was the best presentation we’ve given in 5+ years, and I’m confident we’re going to win.”

He reported that the message was clear, the presenters were authentic and compelling, and the visuals were “AMAZING“.

He had found the winning edge he was looking for, and now his company is applying what the team learned to all of the 50+ pitches they deliver per year.

If you’d like to increase the chances of winning your own high-value pitches, try out the three core principles we applied to this remarkable pitch to gain a winning edge:

Start strong. One of the biggest mistakes presenters make is to begin with a whimper rather than a bang, so lose the agenda slide and start with a story instead. Plop us in the middle of a dramatic scene that your audience feels is familiar, where someone like them faces a high-stakes challenge and the way forward is uncertain. The right story will trigger the brainstem of audience members to feel connected, safe and trusting of you, and set a solid emotional framework for the rational argument you will make when you get into the details of the presentation next.

Make your structure your strategy. What are the three most important things you want your audience to remember when they walk out of the room? Many presenters never ask this critical question that could help them distill their message from many good points to the few most important ones. Try this technique: Write down the top 3 reasons your audience would say no to what you’re proposing, then make your response to those concerns the 3 major sections of your pitch. This approach melds your persuasive strategy into your pitch structure, and crafts one seamless, powerful line of argument.

Use a prompt, not a script. Memorizing the first moments of your introduction can help you make sure you nail it, but presenters who memorize their entire pitch most often come across as formal, stilted and unnatural. Instead, embed your story across the sequence of your slides and use simple graphics in a coherent way to prompt and guide your story from one frame to the next. It’s a paradox that the less you have on your slides, the more you bring to a live presentation experience, because you fill the space with your natural authority on your topics rather than confusing lines of text and a jumble of charts.

Not every presentation is worth the trouble of transformation, but when you have one that is, it’s worth the investment to make sure you deliver the best one you’ve given in 5+ years.

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