If you only had 24 hours to craft and deliver the pitch of your lifetime, what would you leave in and, more importantly, what would you leave out? To make the exercise even harder, you’ll have only 10 minutes to give the pitch.
I recently met with a group of senior leaders who experience that challenge more often than they’d like. They are leaders at one of the world’s largest management consulting firms. These men and women are among the best and brightest. They all have an MBA, PhD, or both. They all have deep experience in their category and they are confident about their ideas. They were less confident, however, when faced with the prospect of sharing their idea—and all the data that came with it—in 10 minutes.
The problem they face would rattle the nerves of even the most experienced speakers. “Carmine, after we submit an RFP (request for proposal), we’re often asked to make an oral presentation as the next step. In many cases we’re only given 24 hours to prepare; 48 hours if we’re lucky,” one of the team leaders told me. “And when we walk into the meeting, we’re not given a lot of time. One CEO [of a major company] came through the door, sat down, and said, ‘I have ten minutes. How are you going to help me?’”
“The CEO told you a lot in 11 words,” I responded. “He said he doesn’t want to read your 100 pages of analysis. He doesn’t want to wade through a 72-slide PowerPoint deck. He simply wants to know what your data reveals about his business and how you, the data, and your team will help him succeed.”
I offered the following three-step process, the components of which will be familiar to readers of my column.
Step 1: Craft a Twitter-Friendly Headline
“The brain craves meaning before detail,” according to John Medina, a molecular biologist and the author of Brain Rules. It means that you need to deliver the big picture before filling in the details . The big picture, however, must be short. I like to keep the top level message no longer than a Twitter post of 140 characters. For example, the consultants in this example might begin their 10-minute pitch with the following statement: “Our analysis shows that we can help you grow your revenue by $25 billion over the next five years.” That’s a Twitter-friendly headline. It’ll grab anyone’s attention.
Step 2: Create three supporting messages.
It’s nearly impossible for people to ignore groupings—or lists. And since our short term memory is only capable of holding about three things at any one time, don’t overwhelm your listener with too much content in a short amount of time. Stick to three. For example, if you’re making the case that you can grow a client’s revenue by x amount over x number of months or years, then give the client three ways you’ll make it happen. If you give them three, it demonstrates simplicity, clarity, focus, and confidence. And they’ll be more likely to remember it.
Step 3: Add a story or statistic to reinforce each of the three supporting points.
Stories inform, illuminate, and inspire. Most business presentations are heavy on data and short on stories. When TED speakers approach me, I often suggest they begin with a story. It’s the best way to make an emotional connection with people and to take them on a journey.
But an 18-minute TED talk is not exactly like a 10-minute business pitch to a prospect who wants to understand your proposed strategy. In this case I recommend starting strong with the headline, supporting your argument with three points, and incorporating a story—perhaps a case study —within one of the three supporting messages. By doing so you’ll have made an emotional and memorable connection with your client while also respecting his or her guidance at the start of the conversation. Let’s put it this way; if someone tells you that you have 10 minutes to show them how you’re going to improve their business, get right to the point. Use stories to reinforce the point.
Also decide which statistic carries the most meaning for the client. If you have pages and pages of data analysis, bring it as an appendix or send it separately. Your mission in 10 minutes is only to inspire the prospect to take the next step and to seriously consider your proposal. Stick to one, two, or three of the essential data points. If your prospect or client wants to know more, they’ll ask for it or read through the material themselves.
Most of us don’t like to feel pressured when delivering an important business pitch. We want more than a day to prepare and more than 10 minutes to pitch. But we do what we have to do to make the sale. Make it easier by taking the pressure off. Don’t feel as though you have to share everything you know in 10 minutes. The three-step outline will help you decide what information to include and what to keep out. It will also help you enjoy the process of content creation a bit more, and the smile on your face during the pitch might help you win the business.
This article was written by Carmine Gallo from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.