How to pitch like a pro

We all think about pitching as a sales process, or as something you might see on Dragon’s Den, trying to convince hard-nosed investors to invest their cash into your business. But what about pitching on a more daily basis, for example, trying to gain buy-in and approval for a work-based project, or even more importantly, to secure funding so that project can see the light of day.

Putting together a project proposal in order to get buy-in from a leadership team is no small task. Quite often you will need to provide a detailed project breakdown, highlighting key tasks, risks, resources and a timeline. It’s easy then to suffer from ‘report fatigue’ – that by the time you’ve researched everything and written it all up, you’re so caught up in the detail that you find it challenging to step back and see the project through the eyes of someone hearing about it for the first time. You forget you need to ‘pitch’ the proposal. Which is a whole different skill-set to researching and writing an initial project plan.

I once made this mistake, and proceeded to give a lack-lustre overview, operating on the assumption that everyone had read the report in advance (which they hadn’t).

A senior leader helpfully suggested I ‘pitch’ the proposal at the next meeting I had to attend, rather than my brief skimming with invitation for ‘Any questions?’.

Not one to fall short of a challenge, I researched techniques for pitching in the sales arena, and came up with the following tips that apply whatever you are pitching:

A strong opening

It’s important to make a memorable and positive initial impact – so summarizing the outcomes of your project, what difference it will make, into a short snappy one liner is no mean feat, but one certainly worth investing the time in.

Solve the problem

Focusing on outcomes, rather than activity, is a key emphasis to adhere to throughout a pitch. What is the problem you are trying to solve? By tackling the problem head on, your audience will see the purpose of your proposal.

Backup with facts

Much like making a sale, facts, not opinions, make a difference when trying to gain commitment. If you’ve done your research, you will have access to key information and insights that can give the big picture backing to your pitch.

Build around a good story

Including a good story in your pitch can help create a stronger connection between you and your audience – based on the fact they can relate to your proposal on a personal level. Stories can help the subconscious mind truly ‘get’ and see the valuable application of the solution.

Give your presentation structure

You’ve got the idea of the content, and it’s starting to flow, but having a clear structure with a logical order is key. You may need to do several re-writes and test out your pitch on a few colleagues before it flows. Making sure you have a strong opening, then the body of your pitch should contain the story built around with facts, then a closing paragraph or statement that leads to a positive close. They key structural elements are: introduction, problem, solution, how your project/proposal will work, resources (team, other), goal of pitch.

Have a short and long version

Not knowing in advance whether your audience will have read your report, it’s helpful to have a short and long version of your pitch at the ready. A 60 second elevator version is ideal for impromptu chats and can help get the key messages about your project or proposal out there.

After perfecting delivery of my new one-page summary pitch, I was ready to present at the next meeting. Imagine my delight when the same director said, ‘good pitch’. A more positive discussion about the project and its implementation then followed.


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