Browse Category: Pitching for business

How to be more persuasive in a pitch

Pitching to a group of people is not easy, being persuasive is even harder. Knowledge and belief in the product or service that you are offering only gets you so far, being able to persuade and win over an audience is essential.

Here are some tips on how to be more persuasive in a pitch:

  1. Be clear-cut

Focus is key when being persuasive. Know your message well and keep on track. Sounding unsure or timid will give off the wrong impression. If you can’t explain your message in a 20 minute meeting that it is unlikely you will be able to explain it in 2 hours.

  1. Solve a problem

Start your pitch or presentation by outlining a problem, maybe use surprising figures or unexpected images. Then build up to explain how this problem can be solved. By explaining what benefit you can bring or what problem can be solved your argument will gain context and purpose.

  1. Looks matter

Consider what the first thing your audience will see when you start your pitch or presentation. Think what impression you want to give off. Dressing the part will make you seem more confident, therefore more likely to be persuasive.

  1. Understand your audience

Do your research; which elements of your pitch will appeal to the audience the most? Pitching is never a copy and paste technique that you can use over and over again on different audiences – you need to tailor your pitch to your audience. Maybe your audience are financially minded, then you should emphasis the cost saving benefits of what you are proposing.

  1. Prepare for negativity

You cannot expect all of your audience to be on your side and willing to agree with you, no product or service is that perfect. Respond with negative feedback with honesty, do not try and make your product sound like there are no drawbacks, this will be very transparent. Instead demonstrate how you have considered every aspect of what you are offering and try to explain how the positives outweigh the negatives.


Image courtesy of photoraidz /

In Front Of The Camera


Monday was unusual. Even by the random standards of my life. It was film day. For me. I was going in front of the camera. Usually I prepare other people to go in front of the camera or on stage. I am the backroom guy – the guy in the green room giving advice, holding your hand, cheering you on. But not Monday. I have been told repeatedly that my website needs a video. Of me. That I am the product, the service, the package. The coach. So prospective clients need to see me and hear me. So today was filming of me.

I am the speaker coach – so this better be good! Scripts were written, rewritten, edited, shared, collaborated on. I think the final doc was called Script Final 9 or Script Final final final 5. Then I set a deadline, a date and we were off to London. I cancelled. Or postponed. That was last week and I was just back from the US, I had loads to do and my head wasn’t there. Plus I hadn’t learned my lines. The film guy understood. He said.

So this Monday dawned. The team of 5 assembled in Canada Water near the Hilton on the Thames walkway. We were south of the river with Canary Wharf as the backdrop. The weather was perfect. The film crew of two were cheery. Sam and Danny work for me and were excited to be out of the office and doing something different.

I still hadn’t learned my lines.

The film guy said he had every confidence in me. I hoped he was better with his camera than he was at deceit.

I was “miked up”, the lighting was checked, the serious professional camera sat on a huge tripod, a light panel explored every wrinkle on my face. I tried to remember my advice to my clients on how to keep calm.  My young team were reassuring even if some of their jokes were off-colour! The film crew reassured with their words but I was sure they were thinking “Another wally who hasn’t learned his lines!”

We were ready. Or at least everyone else was. The “talent” wasn’t. Not a word came to me. Blank. Totally. Nothing. Nada.

Sam read out the script I was supposed to have learnt. That I had spent 3 hours learning over the weekend. The script that I had written and approved. That we had agreed and shared with the film team. I hated it. Too clunky, too braggy, too long. Not. Fluent. At. All.

Eyes furtively rolled. My team smiled encouragingly willing me me to win. I cursed myself.

The film guy’s assistant interrupted. She hadn’t been part of the pre-briefing. She asked me what I did. I told her. She said – “Say that – talk like you have just spoken to me.” Which is the sort of thing I say. But I needed someone else to say it to me.

I pulled myself together. I instructed Sam to make sure that all the key components of the script were covered. He was anointed Chief Prompter for the day. This meant he read out what needed to be covered – I made a mental note of the essential points, shut my eyes like a diva, assembled my thoughts, mentally walked through what I was going to say, then said “Am ready”. And the film crew sprang into action – or at least pushed the button.

Theory. Of course the film crew wasn’t always ready just because I was. Background noise interrupts (i.e. stops) filming and there were planes and boats and cyclists and waves and even helicopters all joining in and laughing at me. So it took a little longer than it should have. Double the time at least. But in the end I was happy with the words and it was nearly a minute shorter. Everyone else was smiling too. We hadn’t moved on from a clip until all 4 of my “audience” were happy.

Midday isn’t great for filming apparently (says the thirsty film guy!) because of the light. So we went for lunch. In a pub – I think the crew deserved and needed that.The film guy seemed much happier after that!

After lunch we went to Westminster, again south of the river, by Lambeth Palace. This was shorter – we didn’t need to film so much and I had learnt my lines by now. And the next day we did some close up work shots on my desk at home. The film will be coming out soon – hopefully this weekend. Danny found some music for it. Graeme, the film guy, has edited out my stumbles and gaffes.

Film is powerful. But it has to be done well. 2 minutes clips are part of the internet culture – but they take ages to make in preparation, production and post-production. The investment is significant – but the end product is well worth having. Or at least I think so. When I publish the video you can decide for yourself.

Lessons and tips about filming promotional video

  1. you must know what you HAVE to say
  2. preparation and preparation time are mega-important – they are part of the investment you make
  3. get a film crew you like and who can work with and who will put up with you
  4. it takes longer than you think on the day
  5. it takes much longer than you think in preparation
  6. post-production is seriously important – be nice to the editor!
  7. working with, listening to and getting feedback from professionals is mandatory
  8. getting feedback from those who know you well, and care about you, is important too  – it keeps you real




Articles published in City A.M. this week

CityAM Screenshot

I am delighted to be writing for City A.M. again. Here are the first three articles I have done for them this year.

The top 10 interview questions you really should know the answer to

Interviewers like consistency, they enjoy being able to judge each candidate by a set benchmark. This is why the same interview questions come up time and time again.


The rules of successfully asking for a pay rise

Ok. You want a raise. Who doesn’t? But you are different. Obviously. You deserve it. Your friends and family have told you that you do for all the hours and effort you have been putting in.


How to handle “Do you have any questions?” in a job interview 

This is your chance to demonstrate that you have thought and processed what has been discussed, to show that you have done your research and to demonstrate your determination and interest in the position.


See all the articles published on the blog this week 


Performance Coaching is best one to one and designed for those who hate losing.

Group Coaching

I used to do a lot of group coaching. I do very little now and when I do, I take another coach along to help make the coaching more effective.  The groups I used to coach were typically groups of 12-15 from companies like Grace Chemicals, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and SAP. They were very typical corporate coaching sessions for middle management and the budget for the day was split between all the participants’ personal development budgets. German firms are better at this most – personal development is both encouraged by the companies and sought after by the employees.

Coaching PyramidThen Mercedes hired me to do an 1-2-1 session over ten days with a senior guy on a very sensitive issue and I loved it. More importantly than that – the results were better too.

Norming Training

Group corporate coaching normally is what I call “norming training” – it gets everyone up to a minimum level of competence. Or at least it should! Far too often norming coaching is seen as just something to survive and it is approached by participants and coaches without focus or energy.  Coaching without a specific target is harder to focus and too often includes handouts that soon become, and remain, dusty on unvisited shelves. Tennis coaching is fine and good and important – but preparing for a match against a specific opponent on “that court” is far more fun!

Norming training gets people from the bottom of a pyramid to half way up. It is important but it has its downsides and its limits.

One is the fact that the participants can’t open up completely to the coach with making them themselves vulnerable to the others in the room – who invariably are, will be, or are friends of, current or future competitors in the corporate or political career race.

Secondly – the higher you get up the performance pyramid, the less coaching is about transferring skills and the more it is about what’s in your head. Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.

Performance Coaching

Most of what I do now is performance coaching – in other words coaching aimed at a specific event with a time limit and a specific outcome.* It is taking people who are already quite competent and pushing them up the pyramid – leaving good, and the competition, behind. Coaching people who want to work to step up from being “good enough” and who now want to make Partner, bring in the business and the bonuses and get promoted. Since that session with Mercedes I have worked in the same way in politics, career development and with corporates: –

  • Politics – preparing wannabe MPs for selections and selection speeches, successful MPs for their maiden speeches, campaigns for elections, the No2AV referendum campaign and even the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for an address to the United Nations
  • Career/Personal Development – preparing graduates and senior executives for interviews
  • Corporate – preparing business development, management and MBO teams and individuals for major events, pitches and proposals.

All of them are focused on specific events, with defined time limits or dates and a specific win/lose outcome. It is for those want to perform as well as they possibly can – not just a bit better than the others and who resent being called “good enough”. It is for those who, like me, hate losing or coming second. If you know somebody who might fit into one of those categories – why not forward this post to them and introduce us by email?


*I have also worked on ongoing campaigns, e.g. against Human Trafficking, but there is a difference to this type of campaign – they are drip, drip, drip although they obviously include specific events and critical dates.

really bad PowerPoint

How to make really really bad PowerPoint presentations.

I hate PowerPoint. Or more exactly I detest the over reliance of so many presenters on PowerPoint. People who use PowerPoint as a crutch, who start their presentation prep by opening their laptops rather than getting out pen and paper.

We can’t all afford to hire Nancy Duarte and her team but we don’t have to bore people to death with really bad PowerPoint presentations.

How to avoid making a really bad Powerpoint Presentation

  1. Powerpoint bulletpoints! enough said (and yes I KNOW this is a numbered list – irony?)
  2. your Powerpoint fonts are hard to read
  3. your Powerpoint slide colours are awful
  4. awful Powerpoint slides – get good pictures!
  5. your slides have too much data
  6. your messaging is unclear
  7. do you want to persuade or inform?
  8. ….

The PowerPoint sin-list goes on and on – things you really should not do in a PowerPoint presentation – but if you insist should at least be done better. I could bore you for hours about this but this guy does it far better than I could so watch and enjoy! It’s a few years old but just as good and as valid as ever!



Questions you really should ask BEFORE you do a Powerpoint presentation

Most Powerpoint presentations are rubbish.

Powerpoint is generally used by beginners, the unprepared or the lazy. It can be good (some TED talks) but it hampers good and great presentations more than it helps – unless Nancy Duarte is helping you. (You should follow her btw – she is, without doubt, the best at visual storytelling @nancyduarte)

10 Powerpoint sins

Most people who use powerpoint commit some or all of the following sins. This list is not exhaustive – there are more!

  1. Reading the slide
  2. More than one message per slide
  3. Not using brilliant amazing graphics that add to your content
  4. Turning your back to the audience
  5. Using too many bullet points. Or bullet points at all.
  6. Falling in love with crappy transitions that do NOT help with the message
  7. Using a tiny font that is TOTALLY legible on your computer but tiny on stage
  8. Inserting music into the slide which is either nothing to do with the message or inaudible because you don’t have the sound technology on the stage. Music files also make the Powerpoint slide file HUGE and hard to email.
  9. Telling the audience that they will get the slide afterwards – so the audience doesn’t need to listen or pay attention.
  10.  Setting up the Powerpoint in front of the victims and not before they shuffle in.

Questions to ask before you even open Powerpoint.

  1. What do you want to achieve?
  2. What is the best way to achieve that?
  3. What are the 3 points/messages I want to make?
  4. Have I got the time to produce a high quality Powerpoint presentation with great graphics?
  5. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  6. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  7. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  8. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?

And for those who disagree with my points  5, 6, 7. Did you ever pitch (and win) a big deal, propose (successfully) or inspire an audience with Powerpoint? All of these things are best done without Powerpoint.

Do I hate Powerpoint? No – I hate bad presentations and pitches. It can be a great medium for presenting information, research and data – if used correctly and if the right amount of effort is put into the preparation.


Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

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