Richie Havens was a folk rocker and the first performer at the original Woodstock concert. He was asked how he puts his concerts together. He said he only rehearses the first song he’ll open with and the last song he’ll close with. Everything in the middle just “rolls out”.
That’s excellent advice if you’re preparing a presentation. Focus on the first thing you’ll say because it gets most of the attention and sets the table for the rest of the pitch. Then, know how you’re going to close the pitch. The middle is typically the stuff that you already know lots about and you’ll probably need less time preparing.
Make sure to rehearse your opening number and your closer before you take the show on the road.
Here’s a really easy tip that will give you more confidence when you speak.
Before you start your comments at a meeting or in a presentation, have a very clear idea of how you want to end your remarks. There’s nothing worse than watching a good speaker searching for some line or story to close his/her talk. And, knowing your exit line is a great lifesaver if you get in trouble and need to bail out early. You’ll have the close ready to go and get you off the stage with elegance!
The #1 reason people give to charities is because someone asked them directly to make a donation. Without the ask, there is a lot less giving.
Don’t forget that in your pitch you must ask the prospect to do something: Hire us. Use our services. Adopt our point of view. Whatever it is, don’t assume the prospect knows what you want them to do. Ask them directly and specifically.
The logical place to do that is after the Q&A section and in your close. Summarize the key points you discussed and then look the prospect square in the eyes and ask for the business.
There are two times in a presentation that the audience is probably listening to you; at the very beginning and the very end. A lot of people run out of steam at the end and don’t put enough punch into the last thing they say. They don’t have the same volume and energy that they had in the beginning of the presentation. The end of a pitch is a great opportunity to suggest an action step, get a buy-in, or, receive a nod of approval. But, you won’t get it if you don’t ask. And you need to ask with energy and a smile.