There are many general rules of thumb when it comes to public speaking. At the same time, however, a good speaker always pays attention to the specifics. The particular demands of a given audience, or the exact aims of this or that speech, make a difference. By adapting to circumstances, presenters strengthen their speaking.

For example, think about the business pitch. We’ve all watched BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den and seen it done well – and, maybe more memorably, done badly. The business pitch might be given by a start-up looking for investment; but it might also be made inside a large corporation, in pursuit of funding for a new project. Whatever the precise context, the business pitch is a common speaking engagement. So how to approach it?

First and foremost, the art of the pitch is to keep things simple. All speakers strive for concision – audiences have a finite amount of patience, and human beings can only fix their attention effectively for so long. In the pitch environment audiences are often even more demanding. So don’t ramble – stay laser-focused.

Secondly, project confidence. If you don’t believe in your idea, no one else will. Dress well, but not flamboyantly, and make decisive gestures. Try to relax into this: tense shoulders or ram-rod backs will make you seem nervous. The best speakers seem in command of their material: that is, in total control, but almost casually confident, too.

Third, tell a story. In speaking, narrative has real power. Not only does it encourage a bond between speaker and audience, it anchors the often rather cold financial data to a more relatable real-world situation. A story can make a great introduction, and even offer a structure for the whole pitch. Whichever route you choose, make it directly relevant to your idea – and remember rule one!

Fourth, don’t over-rely on Powerpoint. I mean this. You need five to ten slides maximum. The text on them should be written in at least thirty two-point font with titles in 44 point. The majority of your information should be spoken, not written down. Do not read from your slides, and do not refer to them except to help your audience. They are there to support your pitch, not make it for you.

Finally, smile. I can’t tell you how important a good smile is. It will inspire confidence, make your audience feel more comfortable – and make you happier. Smiling also encourages you to pause as you speak, and can even help your breath control. Besides, it makes you look friendly!


Of course you need to to draw up your figures, do the SWOT analysis and assemble your core team., once you have a cast-iron case, these rules of thumb will help you deliver a great pitch. Good luck in the dragons’ den!

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