“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.”
~ John Steinbeck
This great American author was talking about literature in this quote but really, this quote applies to just about all conversation. We pay special attention when what we are hearing concerns US in some way, right?
Have you ever endured having someone talk AT you rather than WITH you?
It’s exhausting. I hold that two of the most terrifying words in the world are:
Oh no, you think to yourself… there’s more… does this person not get that they lost my attention?
Your pitch meeting is not all about YOU. It is about the person listening too, isn’t it? It’s about getting them as excited as you are about your story – be it a new horror script you’ve written or a new smart phone application you’ve invented. This is ultimately a sales meeting, no?
A pitch – or any meeting, really – is not a one-way street.
Your pitch is really a conversation between you and someone else. Yes, a conversation in which you are giving information but you are indeed speaking to another human being, so act like it. No taking a big breath and just speed talking your way through your presentation. Slow down.
There are two important things to think about:
Learn to speak in a way that never allows the listener to wander out of the conversation and keep pretending to hear anyway.
Learn how to recognize when you’ve lost someone’s attention and how to bring the person BACK to the present moment.
The best way to really illustrate this point, I think, is to put yourself in the shoes of somebody who is listening to a pitch or presentation that isn’t executed all that well. How does it feel to be bombarded with information, to be talked AT and not to? Of course you tune out a little bit. And think about this: if you are taking a meeting with someone pitching or presenting, this is probably something you do a lot. So it can get old.
There is a paradox if you are a listener in these situations. First, you get jaded, you hear “great” stories and ideas and pitches all the time. But usually they aren’t that great.
But – here comes the paradox – you also don’t want to be the person who said “no” to something that turned out to be great, now do you? That’s a straight path to losing your job. So you’re torn. You want to love this idea but you get meeting fatigue. And most people pitching do a pretty terrible job, whether their idea is great or not.
But you, the person pitching – this is a big chance, right?! It’s huge! It could launch your company, make your innovation come to life, start a writing career! So your job is to not only pitch what you’re pitching well – but to do so in a way that is memorable and engaging for the listener.