The pitch — it is where everything begins and ends. It is where the rubber meets the road.
From a distance, the pitch seems like an elusive, magical message. This message manifests itself in the form of a miraculous epiphany that is regurgitated to a crowd of investors.
Well, that’s actually not the case.
The pitch is, in fact, a series of iterations and tireless revisions that never quite reach perfection. But they get pretty close. More specifically, it is the product of months of research, interviews, drawing boards, Excel spreadsheets and prototype building.
Pitching is just as fun as it is professional — it’s a balancing act, and the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
The Reese News Lab corruption team learned that to connect interactive, culturally-specific compliance training to a global scale of corruption is quite the task. And to that, I say, challenge succeeded.
I’ve learned three big things from pitching this semester, all of which are five words long:
Talk slowly, but with gusto
What I’m talking about here, mainly, is the hook. It’s the first thing the audience hears, and it’ll be reason they keep listening. Our hook went through about five revisions, but we finally struck a chord.
To reel the audience in, we simulated a “gift-giving” situation that an employee would encounter when sitting across a vendor in China, exactly like how our compliance training would work.
At the end of the pitch, we let the audience know that the scenario presented in the hook actually did happen to GlaxoSmithKline, the British company that faced a $500 million settlement on bribery charges.
All of this took the form of a “performance” in our pitch. We even cut out other pieces of our pitch so that we had enough time to flesh the hook out. And even though there was plenty of acting involved, this was the real deal.
So what we were really doing was bringing people into this dilemma, side by side with the employee, and asking them: What would you do?
Shave off what matters less
We had five minutes to pitch on Pitch Day. This means that we must get the essential information across in a five-minute window when all the audience could do was listen.
This is a lot harder than it looks, but it’s worth it. It is better to have quality, well-executed content than chatter about all we’ve done for a semester in five minutes.
Rushing is never effective. And what is unanswered is left for Q&A.
Q&A is where you impress
This, to me, is the meatiest part. We get to cure all doubts, and perhaps raise more questions for further research.
It’s a chance for our team to get to know our audience, their concerns, and show them how much we already know. We did our homework.
We also found that it was better to have one of us answer a question rather than have all of us tackle each question. Playing off the strength of each member of our team, we filled in the holes while allowing the others to independently take questions. It gave us credibility while making the Q&A portion efficient. Again, execution is key.
Pooja Kodavanti is studying business journalism and economics at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she will graduate in May 2015. As a lover of new ideas and good humor, she works at Reese News Lab. She tweets from @pooja_kodavanti.
This story originally appeared on Reese News Lab.
Reese News Lab is an experimental news and research project based at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The lab was established in 2010 with a gift from the estate of journalism school alum Reese Felts. The Lab develops and tests new ideas for the media industry in the form of a “pre-startup.” Teams of students research ideas for media products by answering three questions: Can it be done? Does anyone actually need this? Could it sustain itself financially? To answer these questions, students create prototypes, interview and survey potential customers, and develop business strategies for their products. Students document their recommendations on whether they believe a product will work and then present their ideas to the public.