Imagine this scenario: You’re ready to pitch your well-practised polished business pitch or idea for an innovative business to potential investors and/or partners, but at the moment of delivery, you suffer from acute vocal paralysis. No sounds, only terror – pitch-a-phobia.
Is there a cure? Sure. It’s called ‘systematic desensitisation’ and is based on the principles of behaviour modification, which means that by using basic learning techniques you can change your current conditioning. That’s a win for the pitch-a-phobics.
As an entrepreneur, it’s particularly important for you to overcome this fear as you are always pitching, in one form or another. Whilst a certain amount of nervousness is healthy, this fear can be debilitating.
The only way to overcome ‘pitch-a-phobia’ is by confronting it using a hierarchical system where each level is a small step towards overcoming the fear.
“You cannot go from zero to hero in 60 seconds, as you will fail, and the fear will intensify. You have to take small steps, each systematically reducing the fear,” explains Bronwyn Echardt, Project Manager at business incubator Raizcorp, who herself has used this system to overcome her own paralysing phobia.
Tips to create your hierarchy
- Remove any excuses of why you cannot pitch
- Remember you are not trapped nor being targeted, this is part of the entrepreneurial journey
- Evaluate the opportunity costs of not pitching
- Practise a relaxation technique that you can utilise just before the pitch
- Begin with your pitch written on cue cards in bullet point form only – this is to trigger your memory – you are not saying a speech
- Pitch into a recorder – listen, tweak and repeat
- Pitch to one person who will offer constructive criticism and feedback – tweak, practise, repeat
- Present to a few close and trusted companions and take in their comments – tweak, practise, repeat
- Pitch to work colleagues with a Q&A section – tweak, practise, repeat.
The evidence points to the reality that you are developing a tolerance for pitching and overcoming your fear. This is a gradual desensitisation process – you may even begin to enjoy it…
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The big moment arrives: time to present to the panel
It’s a cinch: You’re word-perfect; you are overcoming your fear; you’re ready to enter the ring confidently with your polished pitch.
You are aware of your body language, clothing and you know your business intimately and are ready to answer questions on your experience, expertise, the business, how you are going to make money, and how the investors will see a return on their investment.
The annual ENGEN Pitch & Polish workshop and competition is an ideal opportunity to overcome your fear. The hosts of this programme, Engen Petroleum Ltd, Nedbank, Raizcorp and SAfm, provide entrepreneurs with a platform to take their business to the next level. Their advice is to be yourself and be honest if you don’t know something. If you make a mistake, fix it, smile and keep going.
With every pitching opportunity, remember to listen to the feedback, tweak, practise and yes, repeat. Repeat, being the most crucial step to overcoming pitch-a-phobia.
For more information on ENGEN Pitch & Polish visit www.pitchandpolish.com.