How to Get Strangers to Care About What You’re Building

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Ready, set, go: here's how to make your next pitch count.

By Elvina Beck (Founder, PodShare.co)

For anyone who LOVES to pitch, on or off stage, you know it’s an identification game.

Your job is to identify with complete strangers on a subject you are passionate about and win them over. You are selling, but it has to feel authentic (you buy/use it), new (you JUST thought of it), and agenda-less (there’s no catch).

When strangers offer you their time/ear by asking “What do you do?” you better believe they’ve already judged you based on what you look like. When you open your mouth, you will confirm or change that first impression.

Every conference and contest focuses on honing your pitch. But often we focus on the buzzwords and taglines, and completely miss the point.

1. Nobody Cares About What You do Until They Identify With You

“What made you start Podshare?” is a common question that people ask. They don’t want to hear that 50 sq ft can yield $100 or that tourism is an $800 billion industry that needs disruption – or the new word is “transformation” apparently.

Their question requires a deeper answer – an answer personal to you, human to them and innovative in itself. Oh, and you have 15 seconds: GO!

2. Talking with Someone is More Effective than Talking at Someone

“You speak so fast” is a compliment. Studies show that “as speech rate increased, the perceived credibility of the speakers is increased" (Smith & Shaffer, 1991). As long as you are present, responsive and passionate, you’ll be able to read facial reactions, body language and match the energy of your listener.

3. It’s not Just What You Say, but How You Say it

You have to trick your brain to forget you’re reciting the same lines over and over again, so the pitch is authentic. You know your stats, your market, and your capital gains but each pitch should not start the same way.

Remember to test your pitches on small groups and see what parts people respond to best, but then recognize your audience – are they women, suits, freelancers, etc.? You have to survey the room and make your pitch identifiable.

Remember: you are your demographic, you are your product and you want to excite people to participate or root for you as the underdog.

4. Branding is Manipulation – Drink the Kool-Aid

What do Apple’s “1984” propaganda ad and Pebble’s record-breaking crowdfunding campaign have in common?

The community backs them because they identify with the branding, and they feel good about being a part of something. Manipulation is a bad association word like junk food: empty calories with a feel-good, cheap consumption.

You can call branding persuasion or enticement, but at its core it’s manipulation and people want to consume.

5. Without an “Ask,” You’re Wasting Your Breath

Your pitch must verbalize an “ask” or a “call to action” button. I am not losing my voice at SXSW to tell you a story about a first generation immigrant who felt lonely enough to launch a share-economy startup. That’s “aw cute, let’s grab coffee sometime”, not “let’s collaborate and make stuff happen.”

We all have limited time, resource and market heed before a competitor enters or advances. My ask is very clearly “do you know any landlords or real estate developers who would put a PodShare in their building?”

6. Your Last Words Shouldn’t be About You

Super important closer (other than exchanging contact info): whether the person you are pitching says “I have someone to introduce you to ” or “Hmm, let me think about it”, I always end my pitch with “Great, how can I help you?” Reciprocity immediately changes a person’s body language (mostly in the shoulders) because you just turned the stage over to them with your full attention.

Give and take, or take and give, but don’t forget: people only like to help the ones they are emotionally invested in.

What's your top tip for pitching?

Photo credit: rangizzz via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Elvina Beck is a StartupKid with a decade of experience in production, tech and hospitality. Bootstrapping from production funds, and inspired by early participation in the share-economy, Elvina launched PodShare - a co-living/co-working social travel brand. With a 92% occupancy rate and 14 tattoos of the PodShare logo, over 4,000 Podestrians have slept in custom pods. All roads lead to expansion. PodShare offers a solution to two problems: lonely travel and adaptive reuse of space.