The 5 Differences Between A Pitch And A Presentation

By Chris Westfall, Contributor
Persuade me. If you can. John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx

“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

“Pitch me your business idea.”

“Why should I do business with you?”

Where, exactly, does the story begin? In order to pitch your ideas - or your job skills - effectively, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between a presentation and a pitch. Because a pitch is more than just an informational presentation. Beyond the constructs of the various TV shows, like Shark Tank, a pitch doesn’t necessarily inform. A good pitch compels. In other words, a pitch inspires action.

Persuasion Creates Opportunity, inside Your Pitch

That’s right, “inspires”. Because if all you want to do is instruct, like an informational presentation, that’s not a pitch. True, your audience might get smarter. But are you getting any richer? What does “good” look like, when it comes to your pitch? Maybe it looks like a new job. A new promotion. Or a new initiative that’s delivered (persuasively) by none other than you. Would you invest in that pitch?

Consider these five key differences between a presentation and a pitch:

  1. You Don’t Have to Go it Alone: it’s easy to fall into the trap that you’re alone on an island when it comes to your pitch - and that’s why you better talk fast, right? Wrong. A presentation is about information. A pitch is about connection. Slow down, and stop trying to lift the world by yourself. Instead, connect your message to the people you wish to influence most: your investors, your potential new employer, your boss. Stop focusing on yourself and consider the puts and takes for the person right in front of you. You may not be facing off with Mr. Wonderful, but if you can find a way to connect to your audience, you’re making wonderful progress. How does your pitch impact the person you’re trying to influence? Are you clear on their outcomes, not just your own?
  2. Outcomes, Not Obstacles: there are four words that need to be a part of any persuasive conversation or pitch. Here they are: “I’ve thought this through”. Thinking things through means looking beyond the details. Zoom out and see if you see the big picture - have you thought things through? After all, a pitch is persuasive. It’s not a how-to. You’re not there to instruct, you’re there to inspire. Thinking things through points towards outcomes. What is the outcome of your business idea? What’s the outcome of you being hired by this firm? Stop focusing on your past experience and knowledge (Your background and resumé won’t disappear, when you make this shift). Turn your experience into outcomes for your audience. That way, you create an experience for your investor (or potential employer). Sharing outcomes starts by answering this simple question: “What’s the biggest promise you can keep?”
  3. What’s Your Log Line? Brant Pinvidic has sold over 300 different vehicles to various studios in Hollywood, including reality TV shows like Pawn Stars and Bar Rescue. In his book, The 3-Minute Rule, he explains how it can be useful to have a “log line”. He defines a log line as “the single most valuable element of your offering...in a single sentence or phrase.” He explains how he sold the idea of The Biggest Loser, the most successful show his company has produced so far: “Overweight contestants compete to lose weight; the winner is the biggest loser.” Simplicity wins, when it comes to your pitch.
  4. Use Leadership Language - Not Just Description: If you want a pitch that’s a winner, consider the difference between language that describes and language that creates. The language of description is all around us - in news reports, white papers and web pages. The language of creation, however, focuses on what we might be able to make, build or do together. Leadership language emphasizes creation: creating partnerships, opportunities, options and outcomes. Which do you think is more important in a pitch, description or creation? If an investor can take a quiz on your business idea, describe it, and earn an “A”, you might just be the biggest loser. Because if your audience is smarter, but they’re not co-creating a new solution with you, what have you won? Do you want to get a grade, or to get paid?
  5. Close Like You Know: a compelling pitch is, at its core, is a series of “yeses”. A pitch always finds a way to “yes”. How do you know if your pitch is going well? When you hear these three words from your audience: tell me more. Can you share ideas that are inarguable? Ideas and concepts that inspire agreement instead of inviting argument? These paths lead to yes. And then, at the end of your pitch, offer the easiest thing in the world to say “yes” to. And what is the easiest thing in the world to say “yes” to? No, it’s not free beer. It’s an invitation. What is the invitation you can offer? An invitation that’s logical and actionable and measurable. An invitation to co-create the next step - the step that just might get you into the winner’s circle. Or that new job you’ve been hoping for.

You don’t have to watch Shark Tank in order to see the value in a persuasive conversation. That’s right: a pitch is simply a conversation, if it’s done right. A conversation that’s compelling, clear and guided, so that your audience sees your vision. A vision that’s presented in a way that makes people say “yes”. Using the language of creation, a pitch builds to a “tell me more”, based on a story that gets your audience involved and connected with your vision. So, if you’re looking for a new job, or a new way to get your ideas across, consider how you might be able to create the one thing that every pitch needs: a connection to your audience. Instead of focusing intently on your background, your struggle, or your hero’s journey, consider instead how you can make your audience the hero. That kind of language just might help you create what’s missing. So, you’re invited to change the conversation - and change your results - whenever you’re ready to win.


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