Guest Blogger: Roger Kethcart
Entrepreneurs get few opportunities to pitch their ideas to investors. That is why nailing the presentation is so critical. Fortunately, there is a good resource that teaches what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling an idea.
The hit ABC TV show Shark Tank has entrepreneurs pitch their products and business ideas to a panel of potential investors. Some are successful; some not so much. Fortunately for those watching, their successes and failures provide important presentation lessons for anyone looking to sell an idea.
Five Shark Tank Lessons for Pitching Ideas
1. Establish your credibility
Credibility is crucial to any pitch. The more credibility you have, the more likely the audience will listen to what you have to say. While the way you look kicks off credibility-building, what you say about yourself can greatly enhance it.
Whether you say it verbally or it’s presented on paper, it is important to identify what it is about you that makes you an expert on the topic at hand. It could be your experience, training, academic accomplishments, anything.
These two guys further establish credibility during their presentation by giving background information, making them appear as experts. The sharks take notice, and the two entrepreneurs get a great deal.
2. Demonstrate compellingly
Demonstration is one of the most effective means of communication because it puts your idea in the spotlight, creating a memorable experience for your audience. But it has to be done right. An interesting, compelling demonstration should be quick and simple. You want to raise eyebrows, not put people to sleep.
Also, a comparison between your idea and an old or existing idea makes for interesting demonstration. If you can exemplify quickly and simply why your idea is better than something pre-established, you’re able to ground your evidence and make your argument more compelling. It’s the very reason advertisements for household products have comparative demonstrations.
A good example of a successful demonstration is the Grease Monkey Wipes pitch. The team of presenters is able to show their product’s ease of use quickly, without any major setup required. Furthermore, they contrast their product with the cleaning ability of the competition, making their product stand out as superior.
3. Dress appropriately
Credibility-building begins the moment you step into the room to do your pitch. If you have the wrong look, it can be an uphill battle to establish authority and gain the trust of your audience. Have it right, and they’ll be much more receptive to what you have to say.
The couple that pitched the SurfSet Fitness program exemplified how having the right look can have an impact on successful presentation. Each came into the room wearing clothing that represented a different part of the service they were offering. The woman wore fitness attire. The man wore surfer attire. They literally embodied the surfer-fitness crossover their service was based upon.
Had they come into the room in suits, they would have had to spend much more time—of which they had little—persuading the investors of their expertise.
4. Too many jokes can hurt you
Most would agree that a joke is a good way to make yourself relatable and lower the defenses of your audience when giving a pitch. However, joking too much can make you look silly and lead your audience to not take you seriously.
In this Shark Tank clip, the presenter starts out earning smiles. But as he continues to throw in puns, cringing and head-shakes ensue. Ultimately, the inability of the sharks to take him seriously leads to them not being able to take the product seriously either.
Joking is a fine line that should be treaded lightly when selling your idea.
5. Save the best for last
Many speech and presentation practitioners recommend starting with the weakest point and ending with your best. This enables you to slowly build up an argument and then knock it out of the park, leaving a lasting impression (people tend to remember the last thing they hear).
HyConn inventor Jeff Stroope does just that when he presents an additional product to the investors after they fail to be persuaded by his initial product.
When short on time this can be risky, as you may never get the opportunity to get to the best part. In such cases, you should always get to your “kicker” quicker.
Selling an idea to an audience is not just the goal of entrepreneurs. Ultimately, it’s the goal for any speech or presentation. Shark Tank provides some great lessons that can be taken to the board room, classroom, stage, or anywhere your expertise may be required. Follow these lessons, and you’ll sell your idea to any audience you face.
Roger Kethcart has had a lifelong interest in public speaking and the communication of ideas. He now writes for Cable.tv (http://www.cable.tv/blog/author/roger) where he gets to interact with his other lifelong obsession – the stories that entertain us night after night. Intellectually ravenous, he is always looking for a new connection he’s never seen before. Reach out and share something interesting with him on Twitter and Google+.