Pitch Perfect: Making A Great Persuasive Presentation

By Jean Colombe (about 1492)
By Jean Colombe.

In November, 1095, Pope Urban the second called the European nobility of to the Council of Claremont. There gathered the power elite of the day (kind of reminds you of Davos, doesn’t it). While you might call them members of the nobility, they were anything but nobel. There were cynical, real politic types. We have no exact record of what he said, there were not transcripts, the exact words forever lost.

However, we know the results—the crusades. Nine of them, ten counting the Children’s Crusade, spread over 300 years of time. Whether not you believe this was a good thing, one cannot deny that his this speech was the catalyst of a social movement that changed history.

The importance of a good persuasive presentation cannot over estimated. In fact, stellar presentations are one of the six communications skills great leaders posses. Once you have lost the audiences attention, once they conclude your boring, once they’ve decided you are wasting their time it’s very hard to get them back on your side again.

The old saying, “don’t bother to shut the barn door after the horses is already out” applies here.

Bad Presentations Are Common

George_Caleb_Bingham_-_Stump_Speaking
George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879 Stump Speaking

 

Despite the importance of a good persuasive presentation, most people do their best to imitate two standard kiss of death presentations: a professor’s lecture and its equally dull and drab cousin, the business presentation.

I don’t’ know why we see so many boring professors, you’d like it a requirement along with a Ph. D. And we see too many mind numbing business presentations. Presenters stuck behind a podium and the laptop, which functions like a child’s security blanket.

Unfortunately, an audience can mentally leave the room in 90 seconds or less.

I have been privileged to sit in on many different types of presentations entrepreneurs make to investors. It’s a bit like shark tank with power points. These are entrapreneurs asking investors to pony up hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

You’d be amazed how many times I saw investors lose interest in the so called “persuasive presentation” or “The Pitch.” Sometimes. you’d see a pained look on the face or glancing at the watch; and of course, pulling out the Blackberry, iPhone, or Android to check e-mails.

Unfortunately, since persuasive presentations are not at all common, this creates an opportunity for those who are good at it.

Lets face it, people like a good pitch. They want to hear a good story and when you give it to them, they respond

Let’s overview the major elements of how to put together a great pitch, a persuasive presentation. The first important element is content.

Presentation Content

The US Declaration of Independence
The US Declaration of Independence

 

Know the Essence of Content. Meaning is important, not just the meaning embedded in the visuals, but in the words as well. When it comes to learning a pitch perfect, persuasive presentation skills, one first needs to understand that not only is every slide a story, but there is a structure to a persuasive pitch as well.

I remember a program by Brian Tracy, who is a very well known speaker on sales. In one of his programs he made an observation that always stuck, when he said, “Many people fail because they fail to pay attention to the basics.”

Same with a persuasive presentation, one has to understand the basics of content and structure before one can work up the food chain. The second element is delivery.

Presentation Delivery

616px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-10460,_Adolf_Hitler,_Rednerposen
This image was provided by the German Federal Archive. Hitler, Adolf: Reichskanzler, Deutschland

Study Delivery Techniques. The delivery is as important as the visuals—most say, more important. Speakers need to understand the nature of verbal and nonverbal messages associated with a charismatic delivery and that passion creates excitement in the audience.

There is an art to getting people’s attention and holding it, as this presenter at the speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park understands.

If you are an entrepreneur pitching to investors, you have to present a coherent business case, get liked, be credible, build enthusiasm, be persuasive and radiate trust and integrity in 15 minutes or less. The third element to great presentations is modeling.

Presentation Modeling

Observe Great Presentations. Communication theory is relatively sterile if one doesn’t make use of another technique—modeling. You must study persuasive presentations—both modern and classic. Great presenters model other great presenters.

In the early days, I would model others at Toastmasters, but soon discovered that really great presenters were cross-town at the local chapter of the National Speaker’s Association. I used to stand in back of presentation, imitating exactly what the presenters were doing, and I believe I embedded some of their skills in myself.

One of my favorite sayings goes, “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” This said by an expert in the field—my Mom. Unfortunately, well education individuals who have spend hundreds or thousands of hours in the library getting degrees have forgotten the value of observational learning, what in psychology is called vicarious learning.

We employ this as a useful tool in the learning process but there is owe more element, getting feedback.

Presentation Feedback

Get Professional Feedback. It’s important to ask someone who knows: What you are doing right What you are doing wrong.

If there is one common common flaw we see in presentations, it’s not getting enough feedback Sure, if you been doing if for 20 years, you probably don’t need that much. Why do pro players still have coaches? Why do presidential candidates still have professionals who teach them and coach them how to debate? And why do you need feedback on that presentation?

It’s because, at some point, you fall in live with your work, you cannot see the flaws any more, it’s looks prefect, Truly it is a work of beauty, but only in your eyes. So be sure to ask for and receive feedback from professionals. We can always ask Mom, but we can predict what she’ll say.

We fear critiques. Actually, these are your best friends, since they point out what is wrong, which is something your best friend won’t do. 

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

DemosthPracticing
Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ (1842-1923) Demosthenes Practicing Oratory

So, get on track, don’t get derailed. If you have never had a studied platform skills, we recommend that you do so to:

  • You’ll better understand content
  • Enhance Delivery
  • Access to well crafted speeches, and
  • See top-notch presentations

OR

If the pitch is well along, call on one of our professionals who can advise you on what works well and what can work better.

Conclusion

Investing in persuasive communication skills is an investment in communication that keeps giving over and over and over. It’s like planting an apple tree, you get the benefits year after year after year. But you must make that investment. Unfortunately, many of us live lives of fear.

Leadership Skill Development