The Art of Pitching

Did you know that it takes no more than 7 seconds before people makes up their mind about someone after meeting them?

A pitch can be a crucial tool in convincing people that you’re worth talking to. A good pitch can make the difference between getting funding for your project or not. A fantastic pitch can give you the job you’ve always been dreaming about.

What would you do if you had a minute to tell Bill Gates about your idea?

The Art of Pitching

At this week’s Wednesday talk Ramsey spoke about how to give a pitch.

A pitch consists of three elements; the hook, the power of three and wrap up. If conveyed correctly, they will together draw the attention of the listener, make the listener interested and ideally change the listeners opinion about something.

The hook

The hook is the most important part of your talk. Remember, you only have 7 seconds to grab someones attention, so it’s crucial that your first two sentences are clear and concise. Further, you want the listener to be amazed or interested straight away. The hook can be one of the following:

  • Surprising statistic – a large number can often have an impressive effect. Did you know  that 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute?
  • Fact – According to recent surveys, Facebook is the most engaging website on the Internet.
  • Bold statement – My social network will change the way we communicate with each other.

The power of three

After you’ve got the attention of the listener it’s time to convey your ideas. The trick here is to do it in exactly three strong statements (1-2 is often not convincing enough and 4-5 bores the listener).

Steve Jobs applying the rule of three during the presentation of the iPhone

Steve Jobs applying the rule of three during the presentation of the iPhone

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone he explained how:

  1. The iPhone had all the entertaining features of the iPod
  2. The iPhone was a “smart” phone
  3. The iPhone was great a internet communication tool

People can only remember three arguments in their head, so using more than that will not make your pitch more convincing.

Wrap up

At this point you should have got the listener really interested and it’s time to finish your pitch. There are three common ways to do this:

  • Call to action – you want the user to do something, e.g. “Sign up today!”
  • Link to hook – remind the listener why what you just said is important
  • Leading question – make the user even more interested, e.g. “What do you do to protect your website from hackers?”

Trying it out

After Ramsey’s talk we got the opportunity to try to make a pitch. We were split into three groups and got 15 minutes to prepare and plan it. A person from each group was then chosen to perform the pitch in front of everyone.

Katie was first to perform a pitch for (a social network started by Jake, Jeppe and Sam). She started the hook by asking the audience “How many in here have joined Facebook groups such as ‘Overheard in Cambridge’?” – (most of the audience raises their hands) – “The reason why you and 13.000 other students have, is that nearby content is often the funniest and most relevant”. She then gave three reasons why Localgag can do a better job than Facebook and finished by encouraging everyone to join the site.

Why Queens’ college is the best

Did you know that Queens’ graduates have made over £400 million within the last year? Radu started his group’s pitch with this impressive fact and then continued to explain why Queens’ is a great place to be in three short statements. He then wrapped up by telling everyone to follow the Queens’ Computer Science blog.

Why you should do a part III (Master’s degree)

Sid was doing the last pitch of the evening trying to convince the audience to do part III of the Computer Science degree. His three convincing points were:

  1. The Master degree is easier because you have less lectures
  2. The Master degree is more fun because you study more interesting topics
  3. The Master degree is exciting because you get closer to the real researchers (including exciting descriptions about one of the lecture’s sword collections!)

After the pitches we went to the Buttery for a Computer Science formal dinner.