This is the third bite-sized article in the series of six made especially for teachers in innovation classes that involve students pitching their ideas.
You know the scenario from the classroom. A group of pupils is sharing their knowledge, pitching at the blackboard, while you, the motivated teacher, is following along with great interest – but the rest of the class is sitting lazily in their chairs, doing all kinds of stuff except paying attention to what their fellow students are saying. Even though the pupils are just training to be better at pitching, the presentation should ultimately be for the audience, so that the case isn’t as pictured above.
A good question then is how you activate your listeners – you may have guessed the answer: dialogue!
Ask your audience a question
Many incorrectly look at pitching, as just a monologue or a one-way street of information. In reality, a pitch isn’t the end, but rather a stepping stone where you make others interested in participating in a dialogue afterward. That’s why you need to make your pitch fit your target audience, awake their interest so that they engage in what you tell them. It makes good sense then to look at your pitch as an opener for two-way communication, where dialogue is a central element.
One method is to explicitly ask your audience a question when finishing the monologue-like pitch and then trying to expand on their answers by asking more questions:
Example: What do you think now, knowing that all animal life in the oceans is disappearing? – What would you do to stop that? – We are currently looking for a sharp journalist for our project, one to write a couple of articles for our website. Do you know a good match for us?
Let the audience ask the questions
Another way to get to the dialogue is getting the audience to ask the questions – and fortunately, that’s easier, than it may sound. If you are pitching appropriately, that is. If you do that, there simply isn’t room for exhausting every little aspect that you have found doing your research, within the time frame of the pitch. What you then have, is strategically placed spaces the audience will find so interesting, that they want to ask you to elaborate on, when you are done pitching. It’s exactly the time factor that makes the pitch an obvious tool for creating interest at and dialogue with potential customers or new partners.
The observing pupils in the classroom are not always the same as the target audience for the pitch. That’s one of the reasons, why the pupil audience loses interest. In this case, it could be fruitful for all, if the teacher, when rehearsing pitches, emphasizes for the audience, that they take on a role, that is slightly different from themselves. This opens up dialogue and is more useful for the ones pitching in the long run when they at some point is out there targeting a more fitting audience.
A “trick” that we use in our pitching workshops is to have the pitcher state which role the audience should imagine themselves being before the pitch begins. It can work wonders.