The Art of Pitching with Darren Menabney

Did anyone get a chance to attend Slush Asia in Tokyo last weekend? What did you think of the pitches? What makes a great pitch? Whether your audience members are potential investors or future company employees, there is an art form to pitching. I had the pleasure to discuss this topic with Darren Menabney, lead of global HR initiatives at Ricoh Corporation and a part-time faculty member with Globis School of Management in this segment of KBB.

photo taken by Javier Montano
photo taken by Javier Montano

As a lecturer in business presentations Darren starts off by saying, “Pitches are basically a business presentation”. As a passion and hobby, he supports start-ups with preparation and delivery of their pitches and a pitch is about your vision, your dream delivered with passion. It shows commitment. “Why should the audience care about your company? Care about our vision?” he asks.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is also true for your pitches and it is important to establish a routine with your team. Here is a to-do list from Darren.
 Involve your team to review your slides and contents.
 Practice makes progress, so simulate the pitch with Q&A with your team.
 Preparation is key! With each rehearsal, improve and refine your contents and slides.
 Your presentation should come out like a conversation.
 Before your pitch relax! Drink water!
 Look after both your physical and mental state.

Once you have set your routine with your team, look out for the pit falls and common mistakes that could easily have a negative impact on your audience.

Choose the strongest communicator in your team to make the pitch. The CEO or founder typically makes a pitch. After all it is their brainchild, but sometimes he or she is not well suited for this vital task.

Know your audience. The audience should buy into what is said and also how it is said. Passion once again is highlighted here with an in-depth knowledge of whom you are pitching to.

Investors invest in people. Do not focus on your product / service too much. Investors are looking for potential for growth in you and your team, so make sure you have done your due diligence.

Ask for what you need. Too many presenters do not ask for anything at the end of their pitches. Always finish up with stating what your current situation is, what you have and what you need to move forward. Is it funding? Is it mentoring? Be specific.

Now that your contents and delivery is a team effort, what about your slide deck? Darren highlights that, “the slide deck is important, but not the most important in your pitch”. It is essential to understand that the slide deck is there to support the presenter get his or her message across to the audience. It is not the other way round. If you have a choice, Darren suggests more slides with less wording and remember to answer the question, “What is the problem you are trying to solve?” Talk about the pain people are having that is worth solving.

There are many resources out there that can help you in designing and refining your slide deck and here are a few that Darren recommends.
Slides on Pitching by Darren Menabney.
Crafting your Slide Deck by Darren Menabney, includes catalogue of pitch decks from famous start-ups.
 “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds, how to design your slides and deliver your message.
 “Talk like TED” by Carmine Gallo, how to make your pitch memorable, emotional, and tell a story.

Things to Consider
 Know your strengths as a presenter / public speaker.
 Use your personal style as an advantage.
 Don’t go it alone as it is a team effort.

Much appreciation goes to Darren Menabney for his time and sharing his experiences with us. For more information about Darren, please check out the links. Please also check out Darren’s TEDxKyotoUniversity talk on how your passion will drive your career pivot.

Thank you for joining us on Kansai Business Break and we look forward to connecting with you again during our next segment.

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