Pitch Perfect in 5 Steps

“When [people are] confronted with a problem that disturbs their normal orientation, they look for a solution; when they feel a want or need, they search for a way to satisfy it.”

Alan Monroe, author of Monroe's Principles of Speech (1943)

Let’s face it; we all pitch. Whether it is at a pitching competition, or at a networking event, or at a meeting. We all pitch our self, our idea, and our business.

In this blog post, I will share with you the model that I apply to every pitch I deliver. This model will help you to:

•   gain a place on funded programmes;

•   capture new customers; and

•   secure investment.

You will be able to apply this structure to different types of pitch, including:

•   a 60-second pitch at an interview/assessment;

•   a 90-second pitch at a networking lunch; and

•   a 5-minute pitch at a pitching competition. 

Many of us pitch in similar circumstances every day. But how can we best structure our pitch? 

Of course, there is plenty of information on how to make the perfect elevator pitch; how to close a sale; and even how to talk to people at networking events. A few of my favorite books on these subjects include:

•   Pitch Anything - Oren Klaff

•   To Sell is Human - Daniel H. Pink

•   How to Talk to Absolutely Anyone - Mark Rhodes

Oren Klaff, for instance, offers a structure based on a 15 - 20 minute pitch, on a stage in an auditorium, with use of a slide deck. But what if your pitch is 15 - 20 seconds, at a coffee table, armed with nothing more than a cup and saucer?

The books above fail to mention the single most significant obstacle we must overcome if we are to move our audience to action. A recent study by Microsoft shows that the average human attention span is decreasing. In 2000, the average human attention span was 12 seconds but by 2013 it was only 8 seconds. Is your current pitching structure keeping your audience’s attention?  

Fortunately, there is a way we can structure our message so that our audience wants to hear more. To do this, we must use Alan Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. Below are the 5 stages of Monroe’s model with examples of rhetorical techniques we could use to achieve each stage:

1.    Gain Attention

•   Quote an appropriate key person of influence;

•   ask a question; or

•   make a bold statement.

2.    Prove the Need

•   Use relevant anecdotes;

•   appropriate statistics; or

•   give examples of a problem.

3.    Introduce the Solution

•   Show the product/service; or

•   give your audience an experience of your product/service.

4.    Share the Vision

•   Use metaphor;

•   vivid imagery; or

•   describe:

-       a positive outlook with your product/service;

-       a negative outlook without your product/service; or

-       a contrast of the two.

5.    Call to Action

•   Challenge your audience;

•   summarise your argument; or

•   make a statement of intent.

Each of the first four stages of Monroe’s sequence invites the audience to learn more, to keep the listener on the edge of their seat. This process then facilitates your message - that is, your call to action.

In a world where human attention is scarce, I urge you to structure your pitch accordingly. Structure your content according to Monroe’s 5 stages. Memorise your content in sequence. Actively listen to your audience. Then deliver your pitch with gusto.