LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF
Stuart Paap has a background in stand-up comedy and has spent years honing his public speaking skills.
A lot can be on the line with a pitch: an investor putting in enough funds to keep your startup going for the next 18 months, a channel partner agreeing to distribute your product, a roomful of influential people who could spread the word about your product, if you can convince them to take action on your part.
Convincing anyone of anything is very hard. Everyone comes into any audience situation with their own set of beliefs, values, opinions, prejudices, and biases. It’s your job to overcome all that, while grabbing, then maintaining their attention in a world of constant notifications from social media and a variety of other apps. I haven’t heard yet of any founder with the nerve to collect everyone’s smartphones before starting their pitch.
Your colleagues, friends, and family can no doubt help you with your pitch. And I would hope that the blog posts on Mentorphile would help you as well, especially the Do’s and Don’ts posts, but there comes a time when you might well want to consider a pitch coach. If Tom Brady, considered by many the GOAT, the greatest quarterback of all time, can use a pitch coach there’s no shame in you doing the same. (Interesting to me as a sports fan, for a long time Tom’s coach was actually a former baseball pitcher, Tom House.)
I have two pitch coaches to recommend to you, one a long time acquaintance, Jack Rossin who has been providing presentation skills training – yep, he is a pitch coach – to doctors, lawyers, and scientists as well as business people. He conducts workshops and seminars on presentations and teaches presentation skills at the Harvard School of Public Health. Even if you don’t retain Jack, make use of his tips on presentations on his web site. Jack’s an amazing guy, who has had a multi-faceted career in marketing communications. Highly recommended!
The Boston Globe highlighted Pitch DNA, Stuart Paap’s Boston-based coaching service that helps startups perfect their presentations, keynotes, and pitches. For all the details read the Globe article by Cindy Atoji Keene: This speaking coach will help you get rid of the hitch in your pitch.
But Stuart doesn’t like the term pitch:
“I get a little tired of the expression ‘pitching,’ because it implies a simplified sales pitch where someone just talks about the benefits of the product or service at a loud and fast clip. I believe it’s much more about having a nuanced and meaningful conversation with the right audience,” says Paap.
And he’s right about sales, sales needs to be a conversation, not a monolog. But in the investor world of today – accelerators, incubators, angel groups, angel investors, venture capitalists – the pitch is the ante, like it or not.
Paap is a former standup comedian, which must be great training for getting and holding the attention of an audience! And he’s a great example of the value of volunteering, having gotten his start in presenting at MassChallenge in Boston.
“The world has changed; it’s not enough to be the smartest person, but to put it in a way that is interesting and entertaining. Pitch DNA is all about simplifying language and being part of the conversation, not killing people with content and going through 58 slides in your slideshow.
“Speaking in front of groups is an ancient and valuable art. l love helping people, and making a meaningful difference. It’s really about having a passion that occasionally turns into clients. It’s far better than making toilet paper jokes in the middle of Phoenix.”
So whether you call what you are about to do a presentation or a pitch, if a lot’s on the line consider calling in a professional.
As I tell my mentees, I’ve made a lot of mistake. Please be creative, make you own mistakes, don’t repeat mine! Stuart says much the same thing: “I always say the only reason I have any authority to help people with their presentations is because I have made a thousand more mistakes than they ever will, so learn from my mistakes.