How to Pitch Persuasively

When I found that one of my blogging assignments for the ADMERICA! conference was a professional development workshop titled How To Pitch Persuasively, I got quite giddy. It’s my cocaine. I love to present. I love the rush, and all the theatrics it brings. I understand that it’s also something that not everyone can do, but everyone can learn with patience and practice. Learning how to present is one of the few personal investments one can make to advance their career, gain confidence, trust, and solidify a client relationship.

Lisa Colantuno, Co-President of AAR Partners and Co-Founder of Access Confidential, led the talk to a room full of AAF attendees. Lisa is proof-positive that presenting is not about size or the boom of the voice. Her voice is commanding not because it’s loud, but because she understands cadence, flow of conversation and the art of the story tell. She claims one should not strive to be a presenter, but more importantly, a teacher or mentor. A presenter repeats facts. A teacher you trust, and you gain that trust by adding value.

Lisa states: “Ideas are conveyed most effectively through the power of stories.”

Pitching persuasively is not science, but can be mastered if you follow some formulaic principles:

  • One, grab your audience in 30 seconds or less. Attention is the new currency, and if you don’t get it at the start, you’re already done.
  • Two, embrace the power of stories. It’s through stories that we allow people the opportunity to embrace our ideas. This happens because while stories are told by a presenter, they unfold and become alive in the mind of a listener. Listeners co-create the story by adding their own imagination, personal experience, and creativity to the party.
  • Three, make the stories connect. A persuasive pitch is not what you say but how you make that person feel. This human connection empowers them to own your idea. Lisa states“We feel first, think second — that’s why stories work.”
  • Four, make it fast. If a client says you have 30 minutes, tell them “great, I only need 18,” because after 18, they’re not listening anyway. The purpose of every meeting is to get another meeting, not dissect War and Peace. Quick, impactful meetings create a strong bond of trust, and a better relationship with clients.
  • Five, give it an arc. All stories have shape, flow and form. Composers understand this. Their symphonies have movements. Small stories within a larger context. The fast and slow movements have consistent musical themes that engage the audience emotionally and physically. Listeners make pictures in their minds. They become invested in the music’s story because they, the composer and musicians are all on the journey together.
  • Six, don’t appear desperate. We all seem to crave what we can’t have, and we always chase what is moving away from us. Relationships are solidified through multiple interactions that takes time. Desperation reeks of impatience, bad time management and fear.
  • Seven, steer clear of PowerPoint and copy heavy slides. Simplicity allows for the listener to process the message, and ultimately stay more engaged.
  • Eight, keep it fun. Humor is your ally.

Lisa also shared a number of stories to illustrate the power of persuasion but there are two which, if you haven’t already, should check out: First is the idea of The Golden Circle, Why Does Apple Command Loyalty? The premise is that everything Apple does is meant to challenge the status quo.Simon Sinek’s presentation is what sells this idea. They just want to make great things, and in the process happen to make great computers. Second, is a video for Google Chrome titled: Dear SophieIt’s a story today from the perspective of a father watching his little girl grow up. Spoiler alert: It’s a tear-jerker.

Pitching persuasively is something anyone can learn by mastering story telling step by step, and remember, you can’t get to the end of a story without first going through the beginning and the middle, so be patient. When we were kids we marveled at the words “Once upon a time…” These are engaging words, especially for a child. We pause, lean in and wait. They’re engaging because we all want to know what comes next.

And what comes next is entirely up to you.


This blog post was written by Joseph Mayernik, published on May 31st, 2014 on the AAF Blog and can be found here.