Pitch delivery & the art of persuasion

Pitch delivery & the art of persuasion

Assertive communication is crucial for successful pitching.

Brief outline of this article

Meta Grošelj

If I had a time machine, I’d use it to get back to the time-space of Aristotle’s ancient Greece. I’d sit next to him, observe, and discuss the debaters. To experience firsthand how he came up with the ethos pathos logos of public speaking, which to this day remain the building blocks of influence and persuasion. Rhetorics is a martial art, he claimed. And if you know anything about martial arts philosophy, then you know it as an expression of valor, chivalry, and self-sacrifice. Martial arts philosophy emphasizes the essence of self-control, respect for others, and a positive perspective to strive for the best in life. I believe when you pitch, you should pitch from the same perspective — the perspective of others, their wants and needs first. For a decade now I have helped business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders design and deliver their pitches to prospects and investors all over the world. Successfully. Today I want to share with you 3 essential elements that I find are most vital for effective persuasion.

It’s not about you, it’s about them!

You probably heard this before — focusing on features is flawed. It’s far better to focus on benefits, but why? Because the benefits are about your prospects’ future emotional state. Modern neuroscience states that we humans make decisions with our emotions, and then use the rational part of the brain to rationalize these decisions. You must spark the interest of your audience in the first minute, and that minute must be all about them, not you.

You can see your deck as the rational part of the pitch, and your delivery as the emotional part of the pitch. When you pitch, you are entering the decision-making process of your listener, and the gateway to this decision-making process is through their motivational drivers. The fact is, that motivational drivers are the fuel behind all our actions, all our choices, and all our behavior. This is why when we design the pitch together with my clients, we first dive deep into the psychographics of your audience — their motivational drivers — to discover and define the drivers that are most likely (or most often) in a pain state — and will most benefit from the change of state.

So what are motivational drivers? Imagine words like status, fame, tradition, performance, moral, duty, fun, excitement, etc. These words represent an aspect of your audience’s basic human need that is left unsatisfied — context around this word, described through a captivating story, will most likely drive them to take action. Persuasion starts when people have the greatest gap to fill. In the first minute of your pitch, the aim is to affect that emotional state — then lead them through the pitch to transform the state from negative to positive, from passive to active.

To investigate the motivational drivers of audiences, I use a special map of the world entitled "the limbic map of motivational drivers" that was designed by the Nymphenburg Group, pioneer of marketing-orientated brain research, in collaboration with the graduate psychologist Dr. Hans-Georg Häusel, they have derived a model to explain consumer behavior. I’m not as interested in the 7 personality types this profiling tool offers, what is essential to pitch design are the 66 words written on this map that provide context. Context is about the realities of our audience’s life, where they are at, what they see, hear, do, and what they feel. I use intuition and imagination to develop the "behind the scenes" of how the lack of this emotional fulfillment is manifested. During this process, my clients discover many things important to understanding their audience’s needs & wants, alongside obstacles, objections, and excuses that pop up and need to be addressed — and overturned — in the pitch. Many times we spotted amazing storylines, opportunities, and spins on stories that hadn’t been visited before. It’s like that quote says: "If you want to get to know someone, walk 5.000 miles in their shoes."

This part of the preparation for the pitch is most likely for people to skip entirely, or forget about when they step in front of prospects, investors, and partners. Too often they are too hasty and eager to start talking about themselves, their idea, their story, the journey... I stop them in their tracks. Who is your audience? What are they about? What would be their why for joining in? After ten years I’m not surprised anymore by how little the client knows about their audience. The persona is by default based more on demographics than psychographics. And even if they have done their homework right, and have identified the needs and wants of the audience — seldom do they have the patience to start the story with them. One, two, three, it’s all about me! If you want to be persuasive, you need to have the patience to go deep into the context of their pain and gain, their fear state, and their desire state. You have to open with resonance to their motivational driver, to ignite their decision-making process. Get the right driver right, you get their attention.

You are not asking for anything, you are there to give!

Right before you pitch, there’s much at stake. Your future. Your success. Remember, you have a driver which motivates you to take action on this project, this company, and this change you want to see in the world. You must switch your driver off — and pitch from a place of your desires all being already fulfilled! You must pitch from the "want-for-nothing" state because you already "have everything" state! nerves that come right before the pitch are about your own mind-rolling potential fail scenarios. Pitching in the energy of scarcity will not drive reciprocity. You must be in the future with your energy. Now is the time for you to have a time machine and pitch from the "problem solved" space-time.

Just think, how would you stand, how excited would you sound, how certain would you be — had you known from the future state — that this idea of yours wins big time! Your certainty shows through your nonverbals and para-verbals. These two are the ethos and the pathos of Aristotle’s martial arts, and together they make for 90% of your audience’s interpretation of you and the words you speak. They will trust what they see — how you hold yourself, how you stand, how you gesture, how you hold eye contact. They will trust what they hear — in the emotion of your voice — which is the para-verbal element of public speaking. Certainty, confidence, clarity — all emotional states. Emotion gives your voice its color. This is why doubt, insecurities, thinking of bugs that still need fixing, and tests went down the drain, this changes the color of your voice negatively. And you don’t want that to affect your pitch. Bugs will be fixed in the future — and from the future you pitch!

My clients need to visualize the future for days before the pitch to get the emotional state right. To calibrate their vibration — from the perspective of neuroscience, you ignite the parts of your brain linked to your future success — neural coupling will occur that sparks the same regions of the brain. Neural coupling is a proven scientific fact. The second reason why calibrating your emotional state into the future frame is to imagine yourself as the one delivering a gift from the future to your prospects. You must be in the giving state of mind. Give, and you shall receive!

Now, there’s a caveat! You don’t want to sound too eager. Aggressive. Cocky. In martial arts, one of the most dangerous situations is when you either underestimate or overestimate your opponent. There needs to be respect, and it needs to be mutual. Remember that basic human worth speaks about equality of worth to all human beings alike — we are all equal worth internally as human beings — even though our externals such as money, friends, and skills don’t match. The interesting bit here is that respect has a certain type of sound and movement when it comes to nonverbals. You can practice it, not just externally, in your inner dialogue too. It’s an amazing exercise that does wonders for your self-esteem and lowers your stress levels before and during your pitch. It is all about finding that assertive voice, that is somewhere between your passive insecurities and aggressively overinflated ego.

Assertive communication is all about respect, equality, and personal boundaries. Establishing equality in the room, no matter who you pitch to, is vital for you to win the game. This means you make eye contact with everybody in the room. Your tone of voice needs to be soft and firm at the same time, and the way you can achieve that is by capturing the right pitch and tempo. Pitch modulation will soften your voice, tempo will make it firm. Bind this with open body posture, clear and tactful gestures, and meaningful pauses — you will create assertiveness that has that charismatic effect.

Your words have energy, not your deck!

The last element of persuasion I want to mention here is the verbal element. Words themselves are important too, as each word has a specific vibration. Words together form sentences that have a specific energetic imprint. It’s a bit like Mother Theresa once said "Don’t invite me to anti-war rallies, invite me to pro-peace rallies and I’ll come!". Think — what would you be feeling when you start thinking about "anti-war"? War, right? Negative aspects of it. Pictures are stacking themselves in your mind already. Now think about pro-peace! How does your image stack change? What pictures are you seeing? Are they different? How did your mood change?

Remember, the decision-making process you are leading is in the mind of your audience. You are entering that space. Their mind. Words, claims, stories. — they are tools that help you paint the picture you wish to paint in the imagination of your audience and remember, as the pitch martial artist, you are the artist! You are inside their head as if it were a blank canvas, painting a picture with ink visible only to them, in their imagination. This is why a five-minute pitch needs to be written down word by word, to strategically place chunks of information in the right order, and to follow the right structure that paints the right picture.

Most likely, your audience already has a previous picture, or many of them — their failures, their wins, their experiences with similar products or alternatives. This is why their vocabulary also needs to be researched, examined and used — if and when necessary. When I examine the text of my clients I look for the vibration of the word, the melody, and also the orientation the wording itself produces. The end effect is once again a specific emotional state. This is why incremental changes in the primacy, recency, repetition of specific words, and the element of surprise with unexpected words — have a gigantic effect on the power of the pitch.

In summary...

We do what we do, we play how we play, we buy what we buy to satisfy our limbic/emotional need that is not entirely met — and the driver motivates us to take action. Your offering provides the bridge towards the desired state — the gain side. First in line is the emotional clue revealing the driver matches their e-motivation. The interest is raised. Then come the rationalizations in the form of market validation, product testing, and all the due diligence processes that confirm that the decision (the hunch, if you will) from the start is correct.

To become the true master of the art of persuasion you must let your audience qualify themselves at the beginning of your pitch, then enable them to rationalize their decision throughout your pitch. They have to spot the opportunity, they have to be the ones who figure it out. They need to be the detective who cracked the case! So what you have to do is to design the flow of your pitch, so that it reveals the right clues at the right time!

You have to deliver from the future state of mind that allows you to sell to yourself first. These three elements are the non visible magic of the art of persuasion and influence. If you want to know more, feel free to contact me anytime.

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