We all need to pitch our ideas and convince people at some point. Whether it’s presenting road trip itinerary to friends, unseasoned start-up presentation or a new product elevator pitch, the principles remain
more or less the same.
Let’s start with some neuroscientific background on how our brain works so we know where to direct our pitch.
Our brain is made of three distinct parts. The primitive reptilian (croc) part of our brain developed first and is responsible for automatic function of the body such as breathing and heart beating as well as survival instincts to flee from the predator.
The second part is the mid brain, controlling our emotions and helping us with social interactions. Finally, 2/3 of our brain consist of the neocortex which is responsible for the most complex things such as abstract thinking and language.
Here comes the first major gap. When you present, you use the neocortex to covey the ideas. Unfortunately, the audience does not perceive your messages with the neocortex but deploys their croc brain to receive your thoughts.
Croc brain’s most important task is survival and it eventually regards abstract messages as a threat. Even worse, it ignores everything that is not new and exciting. Therefore, you need to begin with a clear yet intriguing message directed to your audience’s croc brain to make them start listening.
To successfully deliver your ideas, you logically need the attention of your audience throughout your pitch. To get and attain attention, you have to elicit two emotions: desire and tension. You evoke desire if you offer your audience a reward. The reward in the context of your pitch is the pleasure of understanding something new. And you need to create tension by expressing that there is a lot at stake and they might lose it.
To achieve the counterbalance between desire and tension, you need to employ push-pull strategy. First, you need to push the target away with “I’m not sure if we are the best match for this business.” Then you counterbalance it with the pull, “but if we were, we could build great things.”
Different people naturally see the given situation from different perspectives based on their education, values and cultural ethics. These perspectives are called frames and in the context of social meetings such as pitches and meetings, these frames determine who controls the situation.
When two people meet, their frames collide and only the stronger one survives. For example, in the business environment, your prospective client might cling to the price of the product, while you focus on its quality. Both of you will instinctively try to convince the other to focus on what’s important form your point of view.
To convince anyone of anything, you simply need to gain frame control in the given situation to get your statements accepted as facts.
There are various types of frames and to gain control over the situation requires different strategies. The most typical frame you encounter is the power frame that radiates arrogance. Don’t lose ground and don’t do anything that reinforces your partner’s power. Small acts of defiance will do the trick. For example if the opponent is not taking you seriously and is playing with your handouts, simply pull them away to take down his power frame.
The second frame is the time frame where your partner tries to claim control over time: “I only have 15 minutes.” To bust this frame, you can just wittily respond: “It’s absolutely ok, I only have 10.”
A particularly dangerous one is the analyst frame that fixes on granular details. The best way to knock off this frame is to give a direct yet high-level answer that describes overall goals or systematic features and then go back to your pitch.
People desire things that they cannot have! By prizing yourself, you can make the counterpart fight to get acceptance from you, not the other way around. BMW does a perfect job with their special-edition M3, where customers have to sign a contract claiming that they will take a proper care of the car, otherwise they cannot purchase the vehicle.
When selling or pitching an idea, your audience will feel that their money is the target facing the immediate danger so they will run for survival (do you remember the croc brain?). Therefore you need to reframe the situation by making yourself the prize that they’re lucky to cooperate with you. Don’t be needy, let the target chase you.
To pitch effectively, you need to attain alfa status or a dominant position at the meeting. Some elements of your status are quite stable, like reputation, education or wealth. On the other hand, situational status differs immensely.
While a successful architect does have a higher social status than a swimming trainer, the coach nonetheless is in the alfa position in the swimming pool.
To gain alfa status, the counterpart sets-up so called beta traps to force you into beta status, the most typical example is letting you wait in the lobby. These traps need to be ignored not to enforce the opponent’s alfa status.
Finally, it’s time for your speech. Start your presentation with telling your audience that it will be short. No one has ever complained about the speech being too short. And if Nobel Prize winners Watson and Crick needed only 5 minutes to present their idea of double helix DNA, you can pitch anything in 15-20 minutes.
Begin with briefly introducing yourself and stating the facts that make you a competent partner.
Don’t jump straight to your main idea, you need to put it into the context and address the main concern that your audience has in mind.
Outline the economic, technological and social forces and present the problem that concerns the audience. This prepares a perfect ground for introducing your saviour. Present these forces so you create a sense of opportunity that appeared but won’t last forever.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be also interested in How To Present Like Jobs and Churchill.
What are your tips how to pitch ideas effectively? Please share with us, we’re eager to listen.