One more thing…
FOR EXAMPLES of great pitches delivered just right is the late Steve Jobs, at any of his big product announcements after he rejoined Apple as CEO. Search online to see Steve’s introductions of the iMac and original iPod, and in 2007, the iPhone.
It appears from watching these that he is simply a natural-born salesman. He’s not. You can find videos of Steve in his 20’s, and 30’s pitching the Apple ][ and Macintosh. He’s good, but no where near as good as Steve in his 40’s wearing his iconic black mock-turtleneck, mesmerizing his incredibly enthusiastic audience.
What you see in those pitches is the end result of months of iteration and dozens of hours of practice. Steve makes up none of his words on stage. He doesn’t sound like he’s reading a script, but he is, and every word of that script was specifically chosen and every extra word eliminated.
Look at his slides. Note how few words he includes. He wants the audience listening to his story and seeing the pretty pictures, not half listening while trying to read the words or interpret a diagram. Note the giant numbers. If the key idea is $499, then the slide says $499 in 200 point type, with at most a few words of 50 point type underneath to explain the number. Or the same giant number and small description for any other important, compelling fact.
The only time Steve includes bullets is to iterate a list of technical features. A3 chip, Bluetooth 2.0, 32GB of storage, Lightning connector. None of these as sentences, just a modicum and minimum of text.
Try listening to Steve with your eyes shut. Did you need the slides to understand his pitch? No, they are just there to make it a bit more compelling.
Try listening to Steve focusing not on the words, but on the cadence of his delivery. Note how little he speaks. How often he pauses. That isn’t just because his audience claps, hoots, and hollers so much. He does that because it lets the ideas sink into his audience before he gives them the next idea. When well placed, pauses create suspense, making the audience hungry for what comes next.
Cupertino City Council
I couldn’t tell how much of Steve’s delivery was practice and how much was innate ability until I watched him present at the Cupertino City Council meeting. He presented the design of Apple’s new headquarters building to that local city council. His presentation was horrific.
Apple is by far the biggest employer in Cupertino, California, and has been based in that city since it’s founding. There is no way the council was going to deny Steve Jobs a building permit. Perhaps that is why Steve didn’t bother practicing that pitch. Or maybe he simply didn’t realize there would be a camera on-site and a video on YouTube to broadcast it to the world. In any case, I’m thankful that he sounded like a typical person presenting a pitch for a first time, as it proves that iterating and practicing do make all the difference.
The better your pitch, the less time you’ll waste with rejections. Remember, the point of pitching is not to pitch. It is to walk away with your ask.