About the author Aleks Curac Saric is a Croatian standup comedian who applies his out-of-the-box thinking also as Creative Director in Macedonian NewMan’s Business Accelerator. In this role he also works as trainer and mentor with young startups. More information about Aleks can be found on alekscuracsaric.me
People pitching their ideas or products often forget that the pitch starts even before they take the stage, when your nerves start to get to you. When I was starting my comedy career, my adrenaline was super high during those moments before I got on stage. Ironically, that adrenaline rush is the reason why, when I got on stage for the very first time, I actually seemed relaxed. The rush trumped my fear of flopping in front of all those people and it went great.
However, doing comedy is my dream and, yes, even after eight years that adrenaline rush comes naturally. The problem is that pitching is rarely your dream, soyou need to fake that rush somehow. My advice is to jump up and down about 10 to 20 times, maybe do some air boxing and get that blood pumping. This will help prevent you from feeling that initial stage fright. You won’t have shaky hands when you take the mic and your voice will also sound more natural. That is already an amazing first step in nailing any pitch.
You’re on stage. Now what? – Pause.
Don’t start your pitch as if you’re in a rap battle. All the great speakers use initial and subsequent pauses to build suspense and there is no reason why you shouldn’t add a bit of drama to your pitch. Take a deep breath, come to centre stage so you are visible to everyone, exhale and go for it!
Me talk you gooder English
My advice is to jump up and down about 10 to 20 times, maybe do some air boxing and get that blood pumping.
Now, let’s talk about pitching in English, which most European startups must do. The problem is that, more often than not, English is not their mother tongue. I’ve heard some judges criticise other mentors/judges for telling people that they need to improve their English. I disagree, and here’s why: Being able to do your pitch in solid English is not only good for the audience but also good for you. And not just for the obvious reason.
I’m from Croatia, where most of the people who pitch sound more like Russian arms dealers than a qualified future CEO. Even though it’s unlikely that investors will be turned off merely by a foreign accent, pitchers inwardly believe this will be the case. They think investors will see them as organ thieves. So they try to get the grammar right and fix the accent, but in the end they focus more on how they’re saying it than on what they’re actually saying. It comes down to a lack of confidence rather than a language barrier.
Be the tortoise, not the rabbit
S-P-E-A-K S-L-O-W-L-Y, as slowly as you can. Trust me, you can never talk too slowly, as the adrenaline will prevent that. Talking slower gives you more time to think about what you are saying and it gives you more time to think of words that are more precise for the thing you’re pitching. Also, it eliminates the unnecessary pauses between sentences, making your pitch more flowing and concise. The ones to whom you are pitching to will see you as more confident and thought-out, as opposed to some kid who thinks he’ll overthrow Google overnight.
This is the most important thing. You’ve heard people say “Practice makes perfect?” That’s because it’s always true – every time, in all cases. Practice in front of the mirror, in front of your friends, partner, family… as practice and only practice will make your pitching skill great.
If you want to speed up the process, consider filming your practice pitches. It’s often the most painful thing you’ll ever have to watch, but just get over it. Ask yourself: what is more painful – having your glorified self-image shattered by the video camera’s objective lens, or seeing someone else beat you out because you didn’t practice enough?
Finally, good luck! We all can use some.