Pitch perfect | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 25, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:35 PM, August 25, 2017

Pitch perfect

Have a brilliant idea, but don't know what to say to your boss? Here are some practical strategies that you can use to deliver an airtight pitch in five minutes.

Preparing your pitch

1. The five whys

Accurately defining the problem and its causes makes it easier to find the best solution. Asking yourself why five times is a good way to do this. For instance, if clients are complaining, ask yourself why. Maybe it's because deliveries are not being made on time. Why? Because completing orders and deliveries is taking too long. Why? You underestimated the complexity of the process. Why? You didn't fully explore the stages involved in processing completing deliveries. Why? You were too focused on product development.

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2. Find the solution

Come up with as many different solutions as you can in 30 minutes. Then select only the ideas worthy of being developed, or combine ideas to form one, really great idea. Lay out step-by-step plans to test their viability, and finally, pick the one that works best.

3. Be ready for tough questions

No matter how well you thought out your pitch, your employer will ask you some hard-hitting questions to gauge the viability of your solution. Prepare answers for the following questions: How does your idea contribute to the company's mission? How does your idea impact your colleagues? Will you need extra staff, resources, or space? Will there be a transition period for implementation?

4. Prep a one-page summary

After your pitch, your boss will probably want to mull over your proposal or discuss it with peers. Do yourself and your employer a favour by readying a one-page overview that includes a clearly defined description of the problem or opportunity, data that backs you up, the plan, and the desired outcome with specific examples of expected improvements.

5. Choose the right time

Catch your boss at the wrong time and they may not take your ideas seriously at all. Psychologist and author Shannon Kolakowski says the beginning of the week is busy, stressful, and more likely to induce negativity. So don't ask on a Sunday.

Career coach Lynn Ellis says the key is to find a moment when your boss is not rushed and actually has time to listen. Afternoon, after lunch, is a good time when they have time to sit down and hear you out.

6. Test your message

Ask a co-worker to hear you out to test whether your idea makes sense and is persuasive. Ask for clear feedback: Was the problem or opportunity clearly identified? Were they sold?

You could also record your pitch and play it back. The way you use your voice can determine how well you capture and hold the attention of your audience. For example, lowering the pitch of your voice has been found to increase persuasiveness. Find out which pace and tone makes you sound most confident.

Delivering your pitch

1. The rule of three

The rule of three is a simple template with which you can create a memorable and convincing sentence. Here’s a sample: “Have you noticed that [insert your department] has [insert specific problem]? My idea will make sure that [insert your desired results].” Or, “The problem with [insert current process] is that [insert specific problem]. And that's why we came up with [insert your idea].” This might sound stiff, but the idea is to include all three points in one sentence to make a statement that will stick.

2. Eye contact

Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany have found that direct eye contact promotes trust. Maintaining eye contact for too long, however, can be off-putting. Remember to break off every five seconds by looking to the side as if you're remembering something, or shifting your attention to a different person each time you start a new sentence if you're pitching to multiple people. Personal development author Steven Aitchinson suggests another trick: Rotate between looking into each eye and the mouth (visualise a triangle) for five-second intervals while listening.

3. High-power body poses

According to best-selling author and Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy, high-power body poses decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol by 25 percent. So simple changes like standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head straight can relax you, making you more confident.

4. Close the case

The way you close your pitch can make or break your chances of getting a positive result. Make sure to reiterate the main message, summarise any follow-up actions, and ask for a decision deadline.

5. Get your boss' input

Last but not least, make it a point to get your boss' input. Involving them in the development of the idea makes them more open to it. Thank them and ask for suggestions to increase clarity: “What would you need from me?”, “What would your ideal outcome be?”, “How would that work?”

Amiya is In-charge of the career publication of The Daily Star.

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