Life’s A Pitch: Meet Dublin’s Pitch Coach

Catherine Moonan has coached entrepreneurs and graduates on many of Ireland’s startup programmes, including UCD’s Innovation Academy, DCU’s Ryan Academy, DIT’s Hothouse Programme and nine New Frontiers programmes in the Institutes of Technology around Ireland.

She’s just published her first book, The Pitch Coach (Liberties Press), from which we present this exclusive excerpt:

Tailoring Your Pitch to Your Target Audience

The starting point of any pitch is the audience. Who are you pitching to? It might be to an investor, or it might be to a potential customer, client, supplier or business partner. You need to know your business more than anyone, and you need know who you will be pitching to. You must remember that every audience is different, find out what they are looking for and give it to them on a silver platter. The content of your pitch will change depending on the audience. If you are presenting the same message to a different audience, maybe eighty-five percent of your content will be the same, but examples, anecdotes or case studies will need to be tweaked for each individual audience. There are a few things you need to remember about any audience. They need to be convinced. Do not think that because you are standing up in front of a group of people they will listen to you or be interested in what you have to say.

I used to be a French and German secondary-school teacher, so I learned this lesson early on in my career. When it comes to your audience, it is your job to engage and entertain them from the start, right the way through your pitch. You are not going to be able to give all the information you would like to give in a designated space of time. You need to be selective. You are far better off leaving the audience wanting more than boring them with so much information that they cannot wait for you to sit down. Simplify your topic. Do not overcomplicate or over-intellectualise it – you need to be as inclusive as possible towards your audience. You do not want to alienate them in any way, by using technical words or jargon they do not understand. With an international audience, be careful to avoid slang, idioms or metaphors that they may not understand. If they are confused about a word or a phrase you just said ten seconds ago, they are not listening to what you are saying right now.

In an interview with singer-songwriter Glen Hansard and his band, The Frames, in the July 2015 issue of CARA, the Aer Lingus in-flight magazine, Glen’s band member Colm Mac Com lomaire said: “We have a unique relationship with our audience in that we realise they are integral to the sort of performances we deliver – and that goes back to us as buskers making music on the street. From moment to moment, street musicians have very strong antennae, and Glen is brilliant at reading an audience; he has a sense of being able to keep everyone with you and to take off in tangents, or to stop and turn at any point.”

Glen interjected: “While gigs can turn this way or that on the flick of a coin, they are essentially about empathy. It’s looking into a room full of people and sensing that it needs something, some song – something to kick off the night. That definitely comes from busking and being able to read the mood. Whenever we use the heart, pretty much everything goes great.”

Do not be afraid to speak from the heart as well as the head. When you speak from the heart, you connect with people. Think of all the sayings associated with the heart – ‘That was a halfhearted attempt’ , ‘Her heart was low’, ‘No heart’, ‘Cold heart’, ‘My heart is broken’, ‘A change of heart’, ‘Bleeding-heart’, ‘Heart full of gold’, ‘My heart wasn’t in it’, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’.

If you genuinely want to connect with people, it is the only real way. Cross my heart.

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