Pitching for Introverts: Seven ways to improve your pitch energy
Who was it that said, “The first rule of Introvert Club is that there is no Introvert Club.”? I love that quote! I do worry, though, that it’s the kind of gag that helps perpetuate an unhelpful misunderstanding about introverts. Specifically, the idea that those who call themselves ‘introverted’ can’t be outgoing…
In my experience, this is simply not the case. Indeed, introverted people can be fantastic conversationalists, strong leaders – and excellent presenters. By way of example, Barack Obama identifies as an introvert. So do other famous faces: Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Christina Aguilera, Emma Watson and Hillary Clinton. Love them or loathe them, there’s no question that they can all communicate well – and carry themselves with confidence.
But what about those that pitch toys and games? Well, you might be surprised to learn that some introverted inventors are among the very best pitchers! How is that possible? To understand this, I need to be clear about my definition of introverts and extraverts. Being introverted isn’t the same thing as being anxious or incredibly shy. They may not be mutually exclusive, but the most helpful idea of what makes an introvert is actually about energy. Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is this:
Extraverts GAIN energy from being around people. They find being alone draining.
Introverts LOSE energy by being around people. They find being alone rejuvenating.
In other words, it’s not about whether or not someone can be effervescent in the company of others. Rather, it’s about what it costs someone to be effervescent in the company of others! This is why many introverted people are perfectly capable of coping – and even flourishing – when they know how to put over an idea in a pitch. They will still pay a price, though: they often feel exhausted afterwards, and long to be in a comfortable, familiar environment.
So… While some introverts may despise pitching, and even come to believe they’re no good at it, they might discover they just need to know how to better prepare for a pitch day to find it more agreeable. Here are five tips that may help.
Know How to Start
I’m well aware that some of the most miserable periods during an introvert’s pitching day are quite small, mundane moments… They’re the times during which you have to make small talk BEFORE the actual pitching starts.
You know what, though? There’s a way to get through that small talk pretty quickly. Just keep in mind that whoever asks a question controls the conversation. To that end, one of the most masterful things I’ve seen an introvert do is close down small talk, make a statement and ask a question to move a pitch forward… All in one go! It went something like this:
Inventor Relations: “Hi! Dave is it? I’m Naomi! Come on in! How are you?”
Inventor: “I’m great! Thanks for making time, Naomi. I must say, I do find pitching a bit overwhelming! Do you mind if I just get straight into it?”
Inventor Relations: “Oh, not at ALL! Where would you like to start?”
If that sounds too good to be true, keep in mind why it’s likely to work. The inventor politely answered the small-talk question, stated how he felt… And then asked a question that moved PAST the rest of the small talk in a polite, professional way. The inventor relations person – I’ve not used people’s real names, by the way – took her lead from the inventor. It’s an excellent example of an introvert doing a great deal with very few words.
Write Your Pitch
Beyond small talk, the best way to know what to say is to work out what you NEED to say! There’s plenty of pitching advice on the Mojo site including a series of interviews with Ellie Dix here. You don’t have to prepare a script to rival Shakespeare, though…
In fact, in the complete absence of other information, I would say this: introverts could do a lot worse than learn to pitch the idea OF their pitch. I often do this myself! Rather than get bogged down in the back and forth of a pitch that may lead nowhere, I will often say something like: “This first idea is a trivia game with a twist: you call out the answer you missed! Are you looking for a funny trivia game?”
This way, one uses very few words to find out whether or not it’s worth expending more time and energy. It’s an introvert’s dream! It allows you to get through a LOT of ideas without going through the exhausting business of endlessly talking at someone who knows they’re not interested… But hasn’t been given the chance to say so.
Rehearse Your Pitch
Why do performers, presenters and actors spend so much time rehearsing? Simple: they know that if you keep repeating your words and actions over and over again, they’ll sink into the subconscious mind and become second nature. I would recommend this approach to any introvert looking to do a pitch. You don’t have to be word perfect, but why not play to your strengths? A lot of extraverts would think this is a ridiculous way to carry on – but if you like to spend time on your own, this makes absolute sense.
Handle the Quiet
Few things are more excruciating than a long pause at the wrong time. In a desperate attempt to fill a silence, then, many introverts continue to offer new information. Remember, though: whoever asks a question controls the conversation! So if you’ve reached the end of your pitch, and are met with silence, make it clear that you now need feedback. You can simply say: “What are your thoughts on that?” Then YOU be quiet: let them talk.
Plan Your Day
You know how it is! You’ve bought a ticket to a pitching event – and want to get the most out of it. You know that the more ideas you show and the more people you see, the more chance you have of getting an idea over the line.
Unfortunately, you must also know that few things are as draining as a day full of meeting people at pitches. So one thing I strongly suggest introverts do is be realistic about HOW MANY meetings they book in. Be selective about which companies you put on your wishlist in the first place… Know your limits.
Keep in mind, too, that pitching events very often have social gatherings and networking opportunities. I truly believe this is where most introverts go wrong. They don’t have quite enough gas in their tanks to get through a full day of meetings AND attend social functions. Be sure you get the balance right.
Use the Break
How do you recharge your battery? For some, the answer is to sit in a quiet room and not talk to anyone for an hour or two. For others, it will be to listen to music, while still more just want to read a book or walk in the park…
Anytime you get a break in the day, feel free to do whatever works for you. DON’T feel obliged to network, gladhand and yak during the breaks. They’re YOUR breaks! It’s perfectly okay to slip off and find a quiet corner, get some fresh air or find somewhere to lie down for a bit. You might even contact the venue in advance to see if there’s a quiet room or prayer space to which you might have access.
That’s good advice for anyone, but it’s especially helpful if you like – as introverts often do – to really get a feel for any new spaces they visit. Ideally, you want to be in those spaces at the earliest opportunity. If this is something that really matters to you, see if you can arrange a preliminary visit to the venue. This isn’t always practical, but sometimes you can arrange it.
Two words of caution, though…
First, keep in mind that publishers, organisers and venue staff have a huge amount to do in the lead up to a pitching event. Second, don’t go into any of the private rooms or corridors without permission. It’s far better to ask if it’s okay to than to sneak in.
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