The dirty little secret that those who pitch for a living know is that the best idea is not always the one that gets the business. The one that wins is the one that is presented the most convincingly. To do that there has to be passion in your pitch. If you can’t demonstrate passion, it will be impossible to persuade anyone else to be interested.
As someone who spent more than one decade of her career generating revenue, I know first hand the importance of the passion part. I know that if I was not enthusiastic about what I was presenting, no one was going to be convinced of anything. The same thing holds true for me today, whether I am pitching a consulting project or standing in front of a room of graduate students when I am teaching marketing at NYU.
Nobody is going to be convinced of anything I have to offer – be it a marketing idea or a book proposal – if I am unable to display some enthusiasm and passion for what that is.
Passion is not always easy to tap into.
I also know that it is not always easy to come by. Life gets in the way. We are so concerned about closing the deal, getting the job or convincing our boss our idea is the best thing since sliced bread that our enthusiasm takes a back seat to worry. And there is nothing persuasive about worry.
There is no concrete formula that will help you find the passion in your pitch but there are best practices to get there. Here are a few of mine.
Convince yourself first.
When I started selling country music radio I was hard pressed to find my passion for the sell. At the time I didn’t even like the format. I first had to convince myself of the value of the radio station to a business before I could convince anyone else. So I did my homework. I did research. I read articles. I learned about the core listener and how engaged they were in the station. Keep in mind this was the eighties and the conversation was more about reach than engagement and data was not a keystroke and a Google search away. But I did it. I found data to convince myself of the value of the product so I could find my passion in it.
It’s not about the data. It’s about the value.
With so much data available to us today, it’s easy to create a data dump instead of a presentation designed to persuade. I see this all the time, with people who are trying to pitch me without determining if I am a qualified lead and with my graduate students delivering presentations in class.
It’s not about the data. It’s about the value we bring to the table that the data supports. The value is where we can find the passion. We need to ask ourselves how what we are presenting is solving someone’s problem, how is it going to make someone’s life better. The data is the evidence that supports that.
Learn to rely on you, not your slide deck.
Slide decks are not security blankets. They do not convey passion in the way a human being can. I like to think of them as my note cards that remind me where I am in the story I have created to lead the audience to the conclusion I want them to reach. They help keep me on track, but my passion is derived from inside me and the homework I did.
Think yes, and.
I learned this trick from my friend Rebecca Stuard who runs Improvolution in the West Village. The technique is used in Improv to keep a story going. We are conditioned to think yes, but – which has us conjuring up all the reasons something will not work. But if we think, yes, and – the possibilities are endless and so is the passion we can uncover.
My father taught me at an early age to have fun, no matter what. He believed that whatever was in front of us, good or bad was easier to get through with a little joy and laughter. That approach makes it a whole lot easier to dig into my passion when it is not as easily accessible. And yes – there are days no matter how much you have prepared and how much you believe in your product, you are going to have to dig in deep to access your passion.
Let go of any attachment you have to the outcome.
While we have raised a generation who thinks everyone goes home with a trophy, in the real world not everyone does. When someone wins, someone else loses. The days you win are definitely highs to be celebrated. The days you don’t are best viewed as learning experiences for how you might better approach things the next time.
But an attachment to the outcome and the idea the only good outcome is a win, is the surest way to drain your passion and convert it into worry.
It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to let other people’s distractions, distract you. Think audience members checking email on their cellphones. But if you are going to tap into your passion you need to take e few deep breaths, ground yourself to the earth and allow the enthusiasm and belief you have in what you have to say flow. When you do that, you will be surprised how many of those phones are put down.
It seems silly to remind people of this, but it is necessary. Be human. You can’t find your passion if you forget you’re a human and not a robot rattling off a canned script. Humans still rule, at least for now.