Capturing an audience, the art of pitching

In a room which seems quite serious, filled with several rows of chairs, we can hear laughter. A very friendly ambience, people willing to learn and participating. What is it all about? It’s the workshop about capturing an audience that Samuel Lagier from TEDx Lausanne is giving during the Seedstars Summit. He explains how we have to stand in front of an audience, how we have to express ourselves, the do and don’t during a pitch.

Being in control

The first thing is to master the content of our pitch. We need to be in control of our voice, body, time, space, breathing and stress. In order to connect with the audience, we have to be a leader.

Note that public speaking is actually a dialogue. Indeed, we are not the only one to speak: the audience responds back to us, by nodding, smiling, looking at their phones. These are all signs that we need to be aware of.

The pitch is about our company but we are representing our startup, so we need to be in control. To have the control we have to be careful with our breathing which will lead to lower our stress level and we can speak clearly. The key point is to make the audience feel our presence and engagement to them. To make them feel engaged, we have to look at them, smile, make them dream.

It’s very important to stand on two feet, we have to feel solid. Once we have a firm contact with the ground we feel more powerful which will give us more confidence to speak. We need to have this anchoring on the ground. When we speak we use way more than just our lips and mouth, we use our whole body.

In order to lower the stress, we can do little exercises, like for instance roll our shoulders because it’s where the tension is, move our fingers, roll our neck. We have to warm up before doing a presentation.

Lowering the stress

There are two techniques to lower the level of stress:

  • The first approach is to calm down by doing some meditation exercises: close our eyes, feel solid on our feet and breathe well. We have to imagine that there are branches extending around us and extending in all directions, this will help us feel bigger. When doing a presentation we have to keep in mind that it is our moment, use our space, we are gigantic and we are here to shine.
  • The second method is to turn the negative energy of stress into something positive. Rather than getting drowned by it, we change it. It’s our moment of fame, when we go on stage, we have to take a mental picture to bring it back home with us as a good memory. We also have to know that whatever happens is going to be positive, even if we don’t win the competition, we will still gain experience. An exercise we can do is the “Dutch clap”. The concept is simple: we are by pairs and we clap in synchrony on our thighs and then we point our thumbs to the left or to the right, each time the two persons point in the same direction. They say “bang” by pointing at each other. We need to do the exercise as fast as possible. This exercise, as silly as it may sound help people to get distracted and laugh, it puts a big smile on their face and they are more positive. So before going on stage, we can try and find someone who could play this game with us. Or we can scream if it works better for us.

There is a lot we can say without using words. For instance, during the workshop, the participants had to describe their startup without using any words or talk to each other by using only numbers between 1 and 50. Even though they didn’t use any words, we were able to understand. We could, for instance, see two people negotiating, we could feel the emotions like excitement for example.

Connecting with the audience

We can’t be neutral when we engage with someone, indeed, we have to give something, like a smile and to be in the conversation. During the session, some exercises were done in order to see what we should or should not do in a presentation. For instance, in order to avoid having a boring pitch, we should not have a flat tone, look away, because it will show an absence of interest. Instead, we should bring passion, engage, speak up, articulate. Don’t forget to be very clear by speaking slow and having a very well structured pitch.

Before starting to talk, we go on stage, we plant ourselves where we need to be, we smile, we look at the audience and then we start to talking. We have to engage with them before starting to talk, this is going to reassure us and our audience will feel engaged. As long as we don’t speak, the timer doesn’t start, thus we can really take our time.

The audience is our best judge, we need to practice in front of a group of people and ask them a feedback. They need to answer the following questions: did they understand our pitch, was it clear? In order to give the best pitch, we need to practice,  practice and practice. We have to be in control and don’t forget to breathe. But the most important thing is to enjoy the moment.

Participants really liked the workshop, some of them even said that it was one of the most useful workshops that they attended. Most of them said that they learned some tips that they will definitively use during their pitch.

Last modified: 31 août 2020

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