Pitching well makes or breaks a deal. Oren Klaff's book, "Pitch Anything," offers valuable insights into the art of pitching and identifies six common pitching flaws that can hinder success. Understanding these basic mistakes is a fast way to improve your pitch decks and pitching skills.
1. Too Much Talk:
One of the most common pitching flaws is talking too much. Klaff emphasizes the importance of brevity and conciseness in a pitch. Investors and decision-makers often have limited time, so it's crucial to get to the point quickly.
Avoid overwhelming your audience with unnecessary details and information. You can always share more later when you have their interest and attention. Instead, at your initial pitch focus on delivering a clear and compelling message that highlights the most critical aspects of your pitch.
Another reason talking too much is a mistake is because this way you don’t leave space for your listeners to talk back. This is a mistake because a pitch is not a one-sided process. Leaving space for your audience to talk and ask questions would help you understand your audience and continuously improve your pitch.
2. Too Vague/Fuzzy:
A vague or fuzzy pitch lacks clarity and specificity, making it challenging for your audience to understand your proposition. Klaff emphasizes the need to provide a clear and concise explanation of your idea or product. Use concrete examples, data, and visuals to illustrate your points and make your pitch more tangible. When your audience can grasp your concept easily, they are more likely to engage with and remember your pitch.
The pitch deck of FTX is a great example of a pitch that keeps vague statements to a bare minimum and focuses almost entirely on tangible, concrete language and data. (Of course, this is easier to do when you have solid data to back up your claims.)
3. You Seem Needy:
Appearing needy or desperate in a pitch can be a significant turn-off for potential investors or partners. Remember that when you are pitching you are essentially offering to solve somebody’s problem. It should be the people you are pitching to who need you, not the other way around.
Klaff recommends adopting an attitude of confidence and detachment. Convey that you have a valuable opportunity but are not overly reliant on the outcome of the pitch. This shift in mindset can create a sense of scarcity and urgency, making your pitch more enticing to your audience.
Generally speaking, leaving the impression that the train is leaving with or without your audience is a powerful tactic to motivate them to take action. If you give the impression that you need them rather than the other way around, then they will know they can delay making a decision because you would be happy to wait for them.
4. Going Too Slow:
Slow-paced pitches can lose the attention of your audience. Klaff encourages a sense of urgency and momentum in your presentation. Capture your audience's interest from the start and maintain their engagement throughout the pitch. Avoid lengthy introductions or unnecessary background information that can derail the pacing of your pitch.
In other words, a pitch needs to be fast. You can take your time later in a more laid-back setting when you’ve already got the interest of the other party.
5. Too Similar To Other Pitches:
If your pitch feels too similar to others in your industry or market, it can be challenging to stand out. Klaff advises crafting a unique and compelling frame for your pitch. A frame is a mental structure that shapes how your audience perceives your message. Develop a frame that differentiates your pitch and highlights what makes your idea or product exceptional. This distinctiveness will capture your audience's attention and set you apart from the competition.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to build your pitch around your main USP. The pitch deck of WeWork is a great example of a pitch that makes very good use of this.
6. No Frame To Provide Context:
Lack of context is another common pitching flaw. Your audience needs to understand the context and relevance of your pitch within the larger landscape and for their unique circumstances. Klaff recommends providing a frame that contextualizes your pitch. Explain why your idea or product matters, what problem it solves, and how it fits into the current market or industry trends as well as the lives of the people you are pitching to. This context helps your audience see the significance of your pitch and its potential impact. Without this context, you simply don’t have the answer to the “Why is this relevant to me?” question.