IXD301 Week 10 The Art of the Pitch

Once again the importance of storytelling is highlighted as we looked at the art of the pitch this week. This is hardly surprising as storytelling is a foundational element of communication therefore it is unsurprising that is an important element of an effective pitch.

It’s important to tell a good story when presenting anything as this is what captivates an audience. This can be achieved by first considering the beginning, middle and end of the story/ presentation. It is also a good idea to include this in your slides i.e. begin by giving the audience an outline of what they are about to hear, then follow that outline throughout your presentation and finish with something punchy (is it tweetable?).

How to end a presentation

There are many excellent examples of different techniques to ending a speech/ presentation on high.

The first example I have included is an ending by Abraham Lincoln in which he uses the rule of three:

“And this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.” 

The second speech ending by Winston Churchill tells a story:

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”


The third speech ending by Lera Boroditsky uses a question:

“It’s how the language that you speak shapes the way that you think. And that gives you the opportunity to ask, “Why do I think the way that I do?” “How could I think differently?” And also, “What thoughts do I wish to create?”

These are just a few incredible techniques that can have a strong impact on your audience. Other techniques include finishing with a memorable quote, poem, challenge, using circle theory or an inspiring note, the list goes on.

These are not just good techniques for closing a presentation with many being techniques that can be used throughout a presentation.

How to plan a presentation

To create a good presentation it is also important to plan your content. This can be done by starting on paper, planning out the content for each slide and then moving to Keynote (or your chosen presentation software) to actually start creating your slide deck.

Other considerations that could be made when planning a presentation are:

  • Brainstorming the topic
  • Research
  • Writing an outline
  • Writing a draft
  • Planning visuals
  • Practice

As the presentation, we are working on consists of our work and process the brainstorming and research portion of the above process should be very well covered. However, more research could be completed on how to use rhetorical techniques or research on visuals and style inspiration.  As I plan to keep the written content on my slides short and two the point I believe writing an outline is more than sufficient and again in this instance, drafting written or even spoken content is not necessary. I find even a memorised script still delivers as a script and therefore I prefer to talk around the slides and memorise what I’m going to say by practising.

Further considerations and techniques

A good presentation should also be coherent, simple and memorable. This can be tested by practising with family or friends and getting feedback from your audience. It should use rhetoric and persuasive techniques. Some of these include repetition, rhetorical questions, metaphor, alliteration and humour.

Another point to consider is not to put too much content on slides, particularly too much text. It’s also important to not use too many slides. The length of your slide deck should reflect the length of the presentation (roughly about one slide a minute).

Always proof your slides before presenting. Make sure to check for grammar and spelling. It’s also important to make sure that you haven’t left any content out you had intended to put in a later stage like a quote. These are important points to remember as if an audience notes an error in your slide deck it will vastly undermine what your saying and potentially your whole presentation.

When presenting consider your physical presentation, i.e. dress appropriately for the environment. If you get nervous try planting your feat or breathing the room (a technique where you pick a wall at the pack of the room take a deep breath in and paint the wall a colour in your mind as you breath out) this helps to slow your breath and reduce nerves.

If possible avoid using a script or queue cards as listening to some read can be quite boring. It will also make it difficult for you to use your hands to emphasise points or make eye contact with the audience.

Above all make sure you know what your talking about so that if any question that is notably linked to what you taking about is asked, you can answer it.

Steve Jobs

I was advised to listen to any of Steve Jobs presentations so I selected the first one I came across which was Steve Jobs Introducing the iPhone at MacWorld, 2007. Overall the presentation is amazing and I’m going to attempt to highlight some of the key techniques used by Jobs throughout.

He begins the presentation by displaying his enthusiasm and privilege at being there. He then talks about apple’s success in revolutionising the computer industry followed by apple’s success in revolutionising the music industry using repetition as a technique of emphasising apple as a revolutionary company. Job uses the rule of three to introduce three new products/ product features, repeating them three times “A widescreen iPod with touch control, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet connection device” he repeats this three, almost four times making the description more succinct each time and leaving the audience giggling in anticipation. He then states that these are not three devices they are one device.

Jobs slides are clean minimal generally displaying one image and no text or one line text and no image. He employs humour, uses diagrams, explains the problem with current smartphones, asks rhetorical questions and replies with unexpected answers.

The product was revolutionary but the presentation definitely did it justice. I think what I found to have the biggest impact on me as the audience/ viewer was Job’s enthusiasm for what he was presenting along with his very effective use of repetition. My fear with repetition is that it will become boring to the listener but if your repeating a point that is gripping this is not a problem as seen in this presentation and include humour and suspense the approach is incredibly effective.

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