A great pitch is a mixture of science and art — the business fundamentals of the idea you’re selling must be solid, of course, but to really move an audience you need to go beyond the numbers and offer a little magic. Investors, potential employees, or a sales prospect are all human, and as humans they all respond to a great story. If you want to really move people to action, your pitch needs to tell one.
How do you do this? According to a recent Medium post by startup messaging consultant Andy Raskin you could do a lot worse than emulate Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. Despite his limitations as a speaker — Raskin calls Musk “self-conscious and fidgety” — he manages to leave his audiences literally cheering when he pitches his ideas. Raskin says it all comes down to these five steps.
1. Name your enemy
If you want to move your audience like Musk does, don’t kick off your pitch by talking about yourself, your product, or your market. Instead, lead with your nemesis. “Start by naming the thing that’s getting in the way of your customer’s happiness. Do that by painting an emotionally resonant picture of how the world currently sucks for your customer, who/what is to blame, and why,” advises Raskin.
2. Why now?
The world has no shortage of problems. Most of the time we just live with them. In order to overcome your listeners’ inherent skepticism you need to convince them that, for whatever reason, now really is the time to change.
When Musk was pitching Tesla’s Powerwall battery, for instance, he did this by discussing climate change. We could ignore emissions before, he argues, but now imminent changes to the climate are rapidly making this impossible. Why is now the right time for your product?
3. Paint a picture of the promised land
Before you get into the nitty gritty of your business, you need to give your audience a mental image of where all this is headed. “Showing the enemy’s defeat before explaining how you’ll make it happen can feel wrong for novice presenters–like blurting out the punchline before you’ve told a joke. But when an audience knows where you’re headed, they’re much more likely to buckle in for the ride,” instructs Raskin.
4. Explain away obstacles
Audiences, you’ll recall from step two, tend to be skeptical. Don’t ignore this reality; address it head on. “Now that you’ve shared your vision of the future, (a) lay out the obstacles to achieving it and (b) show how your company/product/service will overcome each one. (There had better be some big, nasty obstacles–otherwise who needs what you’re selling?),” Raskin writes.
5. Win them over with evidence
You’ve shown your audience how you’re improving the world, laid out a picture of a rosier future, and met their objections about this vision head on. All of which is bound to be very compelling, assuming, of course, they believe what you’re telling them. Now is the time to clinch your pitch by proving that you’re not just blowing hot air, according to Raskin.
In the case of Musk’s Powerwall pitch, he does this by “letting his audience in on a secret: Powerwall batteries have been supplying the energy for the auditorium in which he’s speaking,” Raskin explains. Your company’s product might not be so dramatic, but “demos like this can serve as evidence, though results from early (or beta) customers are more compelling,” he continues, adding that “least persuasive– but better than nothing–are testimonials from potential customers explaining why they would buy.”
Curious to see what all this looks like in action? Check out Raskin’s complete post for more details and a video of Musk’s Powerwall pitch for further inspiration.