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Roger Harrop – How effective are your pitches?

Presentation skills – and pitching skills – are increasingly important to business success.

As business leaders we need to pitch for finance, we need to pitch when targeting an acquisition, we may need to pitch for government funds and of course, most importantly, we need to pitch for major contracts, to new customers and pitch to recruit the very best talent to our organization.

We know it’s an essential  skill for all our sales people need but for many others the ability to stand up and present is also becoming more important.

BUT, it’s not something most of us want or like to do. Surveys consistently show that when asked what they fear most for a majority of us, speaking in public is ranked one above death!

So let’s turn that on its head, what that means is that if you are able to effectively stand up and present then you’ve got an edge on everybody else – you are ahead of the pack! There are skills that can be learnt and there are tools and techniques to ensure your presentations ‘hit the spot’. These skills are an essential core competence for you and for your organization.

My experience is that most pitches are poor – they are incorrectly structured, not properly planned, or rehearsed – and any visual aids are sadly lacking. As a result they are nothing like as effective as they ought to be.

Research into audience attention levels when being presented to shows that more often than not most business pitches – at the point of maximum audience attention – are in the midst of telling the potential client all about their company and probably the turgid details of its history – and this before the client even knows if they’re the slightest bit interested in buying from them!

Pitches need to be carefully constructed so that the point of maximum audience attention coincides with the point of maximum information on benefits to them of your ‘solution’.

The value of constructing and delivering a pitch correctly can be quantified. I recently ran my one-day Masterclass Present and Pitch for Profit for a business client and afterwards the attendees (including the CEO) calculated that if they put everything they’d learned into practice, it would improve the top line of the business by something in excess of $10m (£8m)!

That’s a significant return on one day’s investment but also gives an indication, perhaps, of what is possible.

Now – a word about slides: They are only there to complement and enhance what you are saying and there are some golden rules that you need to apply when, or if, you are using slides.


For example, how often are we shown a slide full of text which the presenter then attempts to read to us?

Do you know what? – I can read!!!

I actually consider it insulting to be read to. Even worse, of course, is to be shown a slide full of text which you are then trying to read but the presenter also reads to you, but only in part, and then moves on before you’ve finished!

How can anyone expect that to give a good impression to a potential client?

I have two fundamental Acid Tests for presentation slides.

Here’s one – which may surprise you:

“If someone who did not attend the presentation or pitch sees a copy of your slides they should be UNABLE to work out what you were talking about”


For a pitch to be effective – and that means giving you a better than average chance of securing the business – all three elements: Structure, Design and Delivery have to be right.

Roger Harrop

Roger Harrop has spent over 25 years leading international businesses, including a plc, which puts him in a unique position to deal with present-day business challenges. Based in Oxford in the UK, he’s an international business growth speaker who inspires and entertains audiences with his acclaimed Staying in the Helicopter® programmes. Over 20,000 CEOs, business leaders and others in 38 countries have achieved transformational change through his thought-provoking, entertaining talks laced with real-life stories and humour. Roger is also an author, business advisor, mentor, consultant and independent director. He has unusually wide leadership experience … from small start-ups to multinationals … and from high-tech products to basic commodities, people-based service businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Roger spent seven years as Group Chief Executive of a FTSE quoted, high-tech industrial group with 12 sites across 4 continents. The UK Government mentioned it in its ‘Competitiveness’ White Paper. The US Forbes magazine included the group among its list of the top 100 overseas companies. Two business schools have used it as a benchmark case study on culture change and business re-engineering. Roger has tutored on a leading leadership and teambuilding programme for over 25 years. He’s a keen windsurfer, mountain biker and classic car enthusiast.

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