You’ve been doing it all wrong.

Or at least, you’ve been prioritising the wrong aspects.

Yes, your content is essential, so are your visuals or shiny props. But often, polished business pitches fail to attract funding because the ‘soft’ aspects—stories to trigger emotions, body language cues to increase trust and likability—are relegated to the fringe.

An effective business pitch should have a balance between the ‘hard’ segment (rationale and data), and the ‘soft’ aspect (delivery) to be memorable, and more importantly, to get you the support you need.

Last week, I was invited by Kleos Africa to deliver a webinar on the perfect business pitch. Kleos Africa operates an online platform that links business owners and entrepreneurs with consultants in different regions who provide various business support services – from business plans and marketing strategies to human resources services.

After the introduction, I shared the worrisome statistic: 73% of us suffer from some fear or anxiety of public speaking, according to the U.S National Institute of Mental Health. The term for this malaise, glossophobia, is well documented.

But you needn’t fear that you’d be doomed to fail even though manifestations of public speaking anxiety—ranging from the mild (sweating, trembling, increased heart rate), to the severe (panic attacks, being physically sick, and fainting)—are physiological. Such symptoms are a natural response to perceived stress or to the fear of being judged or embarrassed. That’s why most of us dread speaking in public.

And a business pitch increases the stakes.

But there’s hope. With proper preparation, careful consideration of your content, an engaging delivery, and practice, you can overcome the odds of failure.

Below are the steps I shared in the webinar, which will help you supercharge your business pitch, so you go on to ‘disrupt’ your field or change your world with your product, service or movement.

1) Prepare thoroughly

Preparation is critical to success.

Before you walk confidently into the room where you’d be giving the pitch or before you log on (for virtual pitches), consider the aspects below:

I) Audience & the environment

Who is your audience? What are their areas of interest? And why should they care about your pitch?

If your potential investor is only interested in tech, then determine how you could expand your agribusiness model by using an app that the investor might find interesting.

Also, be aware of the pitching environment: would you be pitching to a lone venture capitalist or a panel? If you’d be facing the latter, how many members would there be, and how do you intend to pitch so that each person feels recognised?

II) Time allotted

Investors are busy business people and have little patience for time-wasters. It’s therefore imperative that you adhere to your slot.

Being able to deliver a concise, focussed pitch also speaks volumes about your professionalism. Unless you’re given a shorter timeframe, aim to finish your pitch in less than 10 minutes, as research shows that our brains begin to tune off at the 9.59-minute mark.

In TV shows, such as the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, you even get three minutes. For the U.S version, Shark Tank, a televised segment typically lasts one hour, but realise that includes the audience’s interactions.

Bottom line: be strategic in the use of your time.

III) IT tools

Nothing can derail your pitch and ruffle your confidence more than IT glitches. Whether it’s your USB suddenly developing a virus and not working, your clicker freezing, or your laptop dying (because you forgot to charge it beforehand and didn’t take your cables) – IT fails, for the most part, can be prevented.

It’s your responsibility to ensure you’ve backups, cords, adaptors, etc. Save your presentation deck in the cloud as an additional precaution. Still, realise that sometimes, despite your best efforts, your equipment would fail you.

And you’d better know your content inside out to be able to pitch without the visual aids.

IV) Structure of your pitch

Use my three beacons of effective communication: simplicity, brevity, and clarity to structure your pitch.

Your product or service, despite whatever complexities, should be simple to explain. Note that the investors might not be knowledgeable about your field, and no one will invest in a business they don’t understand.

Ensure that your pitch is brief (and doesn’t go off on a tangent) as this is a foolproof way to keep your audience interested. They’d appreciate your precision.

Finally, your pitch should be clear. You must explicitly state a call-to-action: what you want the investor to do, and how the partnership should run. Your pitch shouldn’t be a so-what event.

V) Questions

You can realistically predict questions potential investors will ask, so formulate them beforehand. Practise answering them as simply and concisely as possible.  Get a friend to role-play being the investor, and rehearse your responses.

Don’t go easy on yourself; prepare to answer the toughest questions you can imagine. In this way, you’d be better prepared.

VI) Practice

You can’t do this process poorly or skip it altogether. Practise the entire pitch (yes, from beginning to end) until you don’t get anything wrong.

Practice begets confidence.

2) Organise your content

Your content, the ‘meat’ of your pitch needs careful consideration. Contemplate the questions below to help you craft a compelling pitch.

I) Are you pitching alone or with a partner?

Determine if you’re pitching alone, with a business partner, or with someone involved in the business. It’s essential to play to your strengths. If you’re not a ‘numbers person’, then take along your accountant or financial advisor. But don’t feel that you must pitch alone.

If pitching with another person, you must be clear about when the other person should speak and what he/she should refrain from commenting on. You should also rehearse with your partner to ensure order. One person speaking over the other causes confusion and weakens the presentation.

If pitching with a co-founder, you should present a united front at all times and not contradict each other. Again, rehearse together.

II) Is your content relevant?

Articulate what makes your idea, product or service unique, and explain why an investor would want to include it to his or her portfolio.

For this reason, you must know the point of your pitch and then sell it.

Joel Schwartzberg, author of ‘Get to the Point! Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter’, recommends the ‘I believe that’ test to hone your point.

For example, you could state:

(I believe that) Our X Watch will detect the earliest signs of heart disease by daily monitoring your blood pressure, heart rate, and other cardiovascular indicators while you sleep. With the data collected, we could reduce incidents of heart attacks by y%.

Your content will be irrelevant to an investor’s interests if you can’t persuasively communicate your point.

III) Have you researched the market?

Know your competitors and their weaknesses so that you can position your product or service as the obvious solution. Or, if you’re launching a novel innovation, highlight the future benefits.

Know your figures (or get your partner to handle this section) and decide on the equity you’re willing to concede to the investor.

IV) Have you included visual/auditory/kinesthetic elements?

Including visual or multimedia elements or displaying props enrich your pitch.

Moreover, some investors might be inclined to the visual aspects (images and graphics), the auditory (verbal/sound), or the kinesthetic (touch), so make provisions for your pitch to stimulate the senses.

3) Sharpen your delivery

Realise that it’s not about you.

This point might sound counter-intuitive, but the stress of your pitch should be on the value that your product or service would bring, and not on pandering to your ego.

Still, even the most relevant, polished content (with the ‘hard’ attributes mentioned at the beginning) must be delivered in an engaging way to connect with your investors. That’s why your delivery is paramount to success.

First, take note of your appearance; dress appropriately for the audience you’d be facing, and walk into the room confidently.

During the webinar, a participant shared how she had to carefully consider her attire before facing conservative investors. That’s why you should enquire about your audience beforehand. Negative perceptions, which could be formed within moments of seeing you, are difficult to change.

Then consider the steps below:

I) Start in a memorable way

Open your pitch with a bang: a shocking statement, statistic, story, personal anecdote, etc. Just avoid the drab and the predictable. According to the primary-recency phenomenon, people remember most the first and last things you say. Therefore, make your beginnings count.

Use the “Imagine…” technique

One technique I regularly use at the beginning that captures the attention of the audience is “Imagine…” Use it to paint a picture of what the ideal world would be with your product or service. That word mentally transports your audience to your dream and causes them to place value on what you’re advocating for.

Just ensure that after your ‘imagine’ phrase/sentence, that you pause (to give your audience the time to visualise), change your tone, and take a step closer to the audience. Then ask a clarifying question or make a declaration.

The ‘Imagine…’ technique also works well for other parts of your pitch and keeps your audience engaged.

II) Use your body language cues to create excitement or generate trust

Likability, often underrated, is an asset in any public speaking stint – pitches included. Smiling, maintaining eye contact, listening attentively, varying your tone, volume and pitch, and other ‘warm’ nonverbal cues make you likeable, which increases your persuasive skills.

Gestures also communicate passion and credibility when used organically. Switch gestures between the ‘passionplane’ (open palm gestures in the chest region indicating that you’re passionate about your content)—and the ‘truthplane’ (open gestures at navel length signalling that you’ve got nothing to hide and can be trusted)—to bond with your audience. Mark Bowden, body language expert, author of four books on the topic, and co-founder of Truthplane, the communication-training company, explains in the video below why gesturing in the truthplane is the universal signal to gain trust.

Mark Bowden, body language expert/author.

Sharpen your delivery with such open or ‘warm’ nonverbal cues.

4) Handle your Q&A tactfully

Despite this daunting part of your pitch, brace yourself for the (intense) Q&A session. Remember that you should have drafted potential questions and practised your answers during the preparation stage.

Consider the Q&A process as another opportunity to reiterate why you’re the best person to handle the proposed partnership, and why your product/service is worth the investor’s funds. This segment is also the last opportunity you’d get to redeem yourself if you’ve made a few faux pas during your pitch, or if you forgot some vital information.

So invite the questions, and answer them truthfully. If you don’t understand the enquiries, request clarification. If you don’t know the answers, don’t pretend that you do. State that you don’t know, but immediately offer to research and email the information later in the day. Then keep your word.

If you’ve got some idea of the answer, say so but explain that you’re not entirely sure. And send the verified information as soon as possible.

When faced with hostile questioners, keep your cool. Paraphrase their questions, so you understand what they want to know, then address only the underlying issue in a neutral tone. Don’t be baited into having long arguments, even if you don’t wish to explore the opportunity further.

If you’re able to handle the Q&A session effectively, you’d be perceived as a confident professional who can remain calm under pressure – an attribute that investors will appreciate.

5) End with purpose

In the final moments, you should reiterate the highest value proposition of your product or service.

Repeat your call-to-action: request funding, and clearly state how you’d like the proposed partnership to be structured. Enquire what the next steps are, and ask when you’re likely to receive a decision.

For your final words, end strong. You could finish with a forward-looking statement, or you could make a declaration. If you began with a story, then refer to that account to bring your pitch full circle.

Smile, thank the investor for the opportunity, and exit. At that point, you’d have left your audience with the best impression of you and your pitch.


My discussions during the webinar made me realise that the perfect business pitch should contain relevant content, as well as an engaging delivery.  Therefore, prioritising one over the other causes an imbalance that might make the pitch dry and cold (if you overly rely on data), or weak and vague (if you focus on performance and your content lacks depth).

With the recommendations made in this article, you’d be able to prepare, structure, practise, and transform your next business pitch. The outcome will be your ability to influence people, secure the capital you need, and enjoy the support you’d receive.

Over to you:

Do you need help in boosting your communication skills? Sign up here for my free quarterly newsletters and learn best practices. When you sign up, you’ll receive my evergreen resource on giving persuasive presentations. Ensure you download that document and refer to it before any high-stakes presentation or speech.

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N.B: First and second images are courtesy of Third image is courtesy of Stuart Miles, via Last image is courtesy of Samui Blue, via

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