Pitching – It’s Not Just For Baseball

We are always pitching ideas. This lifelong practice likely started during childhood while convincing someone it was  good idea to go out for ice cream in the middle of winter. In the simplest terms, pitching is the act of not just sharing an idea, but convincing others that it’s a good idea and they would benefit from joining you in carrying it out.

There are three things that make pitching successful: passion, perspective, and punctuality. Each of these principles of the pitch is important because independently they can be informative, but together they become strong, convincing and help to move forward with implementing whatever it is you are presenting. If you are looking for collaboration and cooperation from colleagues or leaders in your organization, the success or failure of gathering others can depend not just on your idea, but how it is presented.

Starting with punctuality, it’s important to realize that no matter how fabulous your idea is, how much money it will save (or make) the company, or how it will increase organizational efficiency, if you take too long to present it the opportunity will be lost. Times have changed. People don’t read anything that’s too long, nor do they listen to anything that loses their interest any longer than they have to. This is why TED talks are 18 minutes long and blog posts are 500 words, if not less. Our attention spans have shortened so timing is everything and keeping your pitch to just the right amount of time for accurate and effective delivery is directly related to others’ ability to receive it. The right amount of time will depend on your audience but somewhere between the one minute elevator pitch and a five minute, “hey, I have an idea” pitch is ideal. It needs to be short enough to keep people’s interest before their eyes glaze over but long enough to give pertinent information. Before delivering your first pitch, record yourself pitching an idea with a two minute window- you may be surprised at how much, or how little, that time frame allows. That exercise will give you very valuable perspective on timing and from there, you can build your presentation to your future audience.

Perspective. If you have an idea to pitch to someone, there is a decent chance that it was born from some experience or engagement you had triggering this new idea. The key here is that this was your experience which triggered your idea and has created your desire to pitch it to others. Which means that those to whom you are presenting have no idea where you’re coming from. Your job, when developing your pitch, is to not just share your perspective but to help those who are listening picture themselves having the same, or a relatable perspective. As the presenter, and the person who wants to get the listeners on their side, it’s important to gain support. It is easier for people to support you or your idea if they can relate to your perspective and develop an emotional connection with it. And as important as perspective is, empathy with that perspective is even more important because emotion is one of the things that drives people to make a change or try something new, and if you are passionate about the idea you are pitching, that’s even better.

Passion is contagious. If you cannot present your own passion when pitching an idea or concept then others will not be able to connect with your idea on an emotional level. If you believe in the idea you are pitching, that’s helpful. If the idea you are pitching will lead to some type of financial benefit, that’s logical. If your idea involves change, then your passion and dedication will be needed to get others to follow your plan and be open to the change. Your audience needs to make an emotional connection and contagious passion is one of the quickest and most effective ways to do that. But if you are not passionate while pitching your idea, neither will your listeners be. Others have to believe what you do with as much enthusiasm as you have or the time you took to develop, create, outline and gain an audience to pitch your idea to will be wasted. Even worse, the next time you have an idea and want to pitch it, you may have trouble convincing others to listen.

Great ideas and the answers to “what if” questions are the cornerstone of change, innovation, and improved processes and new business models. Rarely, do we find ourselves in a position to be the lone ranger in pushing them forward. Pitching ideas, strategy and innovation is an incredible opportunity and should be embraced with punctuality, perspective, and passion. If you can do that effectively, you may be well on your way to the next new thing in your department, organization, or industry.