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Today I have the pleasure to Interview David Beckett
David is an international Pitch coach, who has trained Startups, Innovation teams and TEDx speakers in 27 countries. He is the creator of The Pitch Canvas©, and author of the award-winning book, Pitch To Win. Based in Amsterdam, he loves helping people find a voice for their great ideas.
In this episode, we talk about:
- How anyone can make a winning pitch
- What make a perfect pitch
Connect with David Beckett
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– Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another episode of “Explode Your Expert Biz Show.” Today, I’m here with the one and only, the number one pitching coach, David Beckett. How you doing, David?
– I’m doing fine. Delighted to be here. Thank you.
– All right, that’s brilliant. We met in Amsterdam at the BASE Conference.
– I was speaking there, you were speaking there, and I was immediately blown away when I was listening to your presentation because pitching is something which is very core to me. It’s actually how I started doing business. I started doing seminars and events, and then became obsessed to learn about different ways of pitching. And so I’m really grateful that I’m here learning from you today. For everyone who’s listening, thank you very much for being here now.
– Yeah, great. I’m delighted to share what I’ve learned. That’s what I love to do.
– In terms of, how did you get, before we go into more specific strategies to create an effective pitch, how did you get into pitching? What’s your story behind it?
– Well, I started, actually, I had a career in a large company. I worked for Canon, the camera company. I started back in the ’90s, and what I noticed very quickly was the ability to present had a massive influence on people’s career. You could see that people listened a bit more to those who could present well, and they listened a bit less to those who couldn’t. I focused on making it a skill of mine. Now, I left that world 16 years ago, and I did various things. To be honest, I did a couple of jobs, got fired from a couple of jobs after a very steady career with Canon. Six years ago, I decided, okay, let’s go for myself rather than work for somebody else. My passion was presentation and coaching, but I started working with a start-up organisation called Startupbootcamp, and I saw a completely different way of presenting. Instead of this 30, 40 minutes, you know, unpeeling the onion, and after 38 minutes, people get the real value of this talk, I saw start-ups pitch in the first 30 seconds, like this is who we are, this is what we do, this is who are buying from us already, here’s how we’re solving this multibillion problem. And I thought, “Wow, this is something really different “to what I’ve experienced.” I was known as a good presenter, but it completely changed my way of thinking about presenting. The pitch really grabbed me. So I started coaching start-ups to pitch, and it just seemed to fit, this time pressure of getting the story over in no time at all plus presentation and coaching. This triangle seemed to fit me very well. I’ve gone from there, really, and taken those skills and added it for large companies and all kinds of professionals.
– Is there any pitch that you have helped creating that you are, you know, you work with some clients and they always have, well, some will have a real special place in your heart. Is there a special pitch that you remember developed, created that has that place for you?
– There’s actually lots. I’ll talk about one specifically. One thing that I notice is you do become very personally involved. Your job is to help them shine, but you have a slight responsiblity. You’re partly onstage with them. But, yeah, I can say there was one guy, a guy called Juan Zamora. He’s the head of a great start-up, now a scale-up, called Signaturit. I met him when he was really struggling with his pitch. And today, he’s winning pitch competitions. I didn’t do all that, he did, he did the work, but what I was happy about was we were halfway through this accelerator programme, Startupbootcamp, and he was really struggling, people were telling him, “You can’t pitch.” He’d had a couple of really bad experiences. But what we did was put a structure in place, and he just worked like crazy using the tools that I gave him. Couple of other people helped him. On the day of the demo day, six weeks after almost having his head in his hands, you know, “I can’t pitch. “Maybe I have to stop doing this,” he is standing onstage as if it’s his home. And now, as I say, he’s won pitch competitions, they’ve raised a lot of money, he’s a great entrepreneur. But you could see, it was this one specific thing was holding him back, and then he broke it through real work. People think it’s inspiration, but in the end, I deliver tools. I know work, that when people work at it, that they follow the method. Yeah, it really was inspiring to see him make that transition from really struggling to success in just six, seven weeks.
– Why do you think that coaches, speakers, or entrepreneurs as well, they should master pitching? Why do you think that?
– Well, the first thing about a pitch is that it’s about speed. It’s pitching in no time at all. The one biggest macrotrend in the world is people have got less time. Nobody is looking for things, more complicated, more detail, take more time. We’re all looking for simpler, easier, quicker. So I think people want to make quick decisions. Is this of interest? Yes or no. And then they wanna know the headlines. Then they can make a decision themselves. “Okay, I’m interested in this. “This has value for me. “Now, let’s go into the details.” Or, “Thanks very much. “We don’t have anything in common. “Let’s go do something else.” And I think the pitch is all about triggering people to go to the next level. Sometimes, people think the pitch is about convincing people in the whole thing. But I think the pitch is about just convincing people to take the next step. And getting people into the process, getting them engaged with you, I think the pitch really helps anybody, whether that’s a coach or if it’s entrepreneur, to get into kind of the sales funnel, not a big fan of that phrase, but in the end, it’s getting them engaged with you and into that kind of sales process.
– I’m 100% onboard with you. I believe that the art of pitching is like literally a ticket to financial freedom. Because once you have it, it’s not easy to get at the beginning because there are lot of different components that are playing all at the same time.
– It’s like painting this beautiful picture that it looks seamless and beautiful, and then you realise how many different angles and components there are. But, at the same time, once you master it, you can use it anywhere.
– Yes. Yeah, definitely.
– Once you understand the dynamics as well, then you can apply the same dynamics to other pitches that you’re doing. For me, it changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am now, having three companies, we sold more than 1.7 million worth of product and services. And that’s mainly done through event, pitching, selling our products, doing a sales presentation. And so you can use it, depending on the market, what you’re in, you can use this to raise fundings, you can use it to sell directly your product or services. At the end of the day, the pitch is the pitch. That’s why I’m so excited about this topic.
– And it’s cool to me. I mean, it totally changed my life. Let’s go a bit more into the nitty-gritty. What are the elements of the pitch that works in the way that you teach?
– Well, I think there’s a couple of things. One is the form and one is the content. The content depends a little bit on the situation, but there are some things which are always the same. What most people do is they open PowerPoint and start preparing slides. My advice is to leave the software alone for quite a while. Even if you’re in a situation where you have to present slides, it’s not that you don’t use PowerPoint, it’s that you start to get your story straight away from PowerPoint. And the way to get the story straight is start with who’s the audience and what do they care about, what’s on their minds, what’s bothering them, what are their biggest challenges, and what type of people are they. And then the second thing is, well, what do I want these people to do as a result of this pitch? What would be the first next action once we’ve had this conversation, once we’ve had this pitch? I think the audience and the objective are steering a lot of what we talk about. Now, what that tends to be is, we have a kind of a core of content that we’re talking about, but the framing for depending on who you’re talking to, that needs a bit of tuning and a bit of thinking before you even start thinking about the content. And often, the opening and the closing will be heavily influenced by the audience and objective, plus a few key things along the way. So that’s the first thing, is get the audience and the objective and make a profile of those people to start off with.
– Brilliant, so audience and objective first.
– Once you have the audience and objectives clear in your mind, what’s the next step?
– And then, it’s not opening PowerPoint, again. It’s brainstorming. It’s getting the thoughts out of your head. What we try to do is jam our thoughts into some kind of software, normally PowerPoint or something similar. The problem is our brains don’t really work that way. We have random brains. We come up with different ideas all the time. So we need a tool that adapts to the way our brains work. And that tool is very simple; it’s Post-it notes. Post-it notes are a great way. It’s very analogue. It’s think, write, done. And if you don’t like what you wrote, you just screw it up and write something else. What you do is let your brain think, and think about what’s all the things I could think and talk about in this pitch. So think wide and deep, much more than the actual pitch, and think, “Okay, what’s the problem we’re solving “or the solution we’re offering? “What’s unique about this solution? “Why do I believe that it’s a great proposition? “Who’s buying this already? “What’s in it for them?” These are all topics that people can think about. Get them out of your head first, organise your thoughts, and then start building a storyline. Once you’ve got that, that will help you to prepare, whether it’s slides or just a storyline you wanna talk, just getting that process of thinking it through and writing it down, organising the thoughts will help you a lot.
– I remember when I saw you at the BASE Conference. You had this massive slide with all the Post-it notes, different colour codes. Is there a particular process that you use in terms of Post-it notes? Or is it just think, write, put it up or take it away? Or is that another layer to this?
– The way I work with start-ups is I use a thing called a Pitch Canvas. Actually, that will work for a lot of entrepreneurs who are maybe not necessarily raising funding. They’re maybe pitching their business or pitching their customers. There’s a lot of blocks in a Pitch Canvas for start-ups which are relevant for any, for a coach, for an entrepreneur, and so on. I think there’s a bit of structure that you need to take to the brainstorming, and the Pitch Canvas gives you that structure. It starts with a statement of the change, the big thing you’re changing in the world. What are you looking to change and what’s the problem that you’re solving? What’s the solution you’ve created? What’s unique about that solution? Can you demonstrate what that’s gonna look like? And then how will you demonstrate that? And then, customer traction. Who’s already buying so far? These are all things that anybody who’s pitching a business, whatever type of business, they could think about. In your start-up, you would talk about things like the business model, the investment. But if you’re pitching your own business, you wouldn’t talk necessarily about those things but you would talk about, okay, what do you need from your audience as a first next step? What would be the next step to take? What are you looking for? Maybe you made it clear about what costs are involved or simply what would be the next steps for them. And then the last part of the brainstorm is about why you, and why you believe this is a great proposition. Why are you enthusiastic about what you do? That’s the structure to the brainstorm. The first step is very rough, to get them all out, as many Post-its as possible. And then take another flip chart and organise, take the ideas, think who’s the audience, what’s the objective, how long have I got, and build the storyline from those rough ideas into a structure.
– And you’ve built, you’ve written a book around the Pitch Canvas, if I remember well.
– That’s right.
– All right, what’s the book called?
– The book is called “Pitch to Win,” and it’s available in English, Dutch, and German, and hopefully a few more languages soon, but at the usual sort of places. There, I’ve taken everything that I’ve learned in packaged that in the book. My goal is not that people understand it, it’s that they can do it. Everything is about exercises, things that you can do to take you closer to being able to make your pitch. All my workshops are built around exercises, things that you can actually do, not just think. So what I’ve described here, everybody can make a profile of an audience. Everyone can think, “What’s the objective? “What do I want these people to do?” Everyone can write all their thoughts down then organise them. Sometimes, we think pitching is kind of a skill that only a few are born to do. Everybody can do all these things, and gradually you build yourself up to the point where anybody can pitch.
– Yeah, we’re gonna put the link of “Pitch to Win” here in the show notes because I’m sure
– that people will be like, “Okay, I wanna see how the canvas looks like.” I’m a big fan myself of canvases. We use that as a framework to help our clients grow. We have created the Expert Business Canvas.
– Oh, great.
– It is a very simple and visual way to organise your thoughts, whether it’s for a pitch, whether it’s for your business, so I’m a big, big fan from the first canvas I’ve seen, which was the business canvas. That one was what opened my mind, that actually you don’t need to have… I remember doing my first business plan, this 36-page document that I never opened again.
– Probably the same with pitches. People writing pages and pages and pages of notes that they’re never going to remember. I mean, they kind of like write a fricking play they have to memorise.
– But that’s not how the brain works.
– No, no.
– So we need
– We need to get our radius
– a really powerful tool.
– out and just think creatively and have a look about ideas, organise them, then things start to fall in place. It’s really difficult to do that in PowerPoint or software.
– Yeah. David, where are you from originally?
– I’m English, but I’ve been away for 22 years. I’ve bene living in Amsterdam for 22 years.
– Which part of the UK?
– From the south, from Kent and Surrey.
– Right, yeah, yeah.
– Yeah, so I made my Brexit a long time ago.
– Well, I’m in London. I live in London at the moment. What made you move to Amsterdam and why’d you decide to stay there?
– Yeah, actually, I was in my, I was 30 and I, telling you, I give my age away, and I decided, you know, I got an offer of a job in Canon in Amsterdam and I thought,
– Oh, right.
– “You know what?”
– So it was Canon.
– Yeah, and I thought, “You know what? “Let’s just go there for a couple of years, see how it goes. “Seems like a nice place, been a couple of times.” And it just turned out to be a great place. I loved working at Canon, which is a great company. I actually moved away and moved to Austria for four years and then came back to Amsterdam in 2007. When I started my own business, it’s a great place to start a business, especially in innovation and entrepreneurship because there’s a lot going on in Amsterdam around that topic. You could make a bit of a reputation for yourself fairly quickly and build a network. It worked out really well.
– That’s brilliant to hear. Now, getting back to the pitch. We’ve been talking so far more about the preparation. Having the content in mind, creating the content, looking at the audience, the objective. After the preparation, you have another stage, which is the stage of rehearsal. That gets you ready for the big moment, right?
– Any particular strategy or tip or suggestion or even maybe things to avoid, depending on where you want to go, to do or not to do during the preparation?
– Sure. I’ve heard quite often that people say, “Well, I don’t like to over-rehearse.” But the danger with that is finding out whether it’s good or not in real time. That means you’re standing in front of the audience, it’s the first time you’re saying some things, and you find, “Ah, they just don’t get this.” When you say it out loud, it just doesn’t make sense. So what I recommend people to do is, when they’re building a story, as they’re building that story, to verbalise it, say it out loud, start to hear themself. Actually, I’m speaking on Friday at, it’s not a full TEDx talk but I’m introducing something at TEDx Amsterdam on Friday. I’m following my own process. I make a script. It’s a short talk, so there I make a script. And then I’m saying out loud and trying to find, are these words that I would say to a friend over coffee? If they’re not, I change the words. If it says, “We will execute this plan,” yeah, I don’t say that to a friend over coffee. I say, “We’re gonna make it happen.” So change it in the script to, “We’re gonna make it happen.” It doesn’t have to be technically correct. It needs to be the language that you would use. So one of the steps to rehearsal is actually, during the time when you’re building the story, is to say things out loud. Think it through, write it down, say it out loud. And ideally, get some feedback a bit early on on the basic structure of the story so that you’re not married to the whole thing. You don’t prepare, prepare, prepare and then finally show it to somebody when it’s too late to change anything. These are steps that will help you. But especially, rehearsal is all about saying things out loud. You can’t rehearse in your head. You need to verbalise it into the world and listen to yourself, sometimes recording yourself and then listening back or even watching back. Nobody likes that. We hate doing that. But it’s one of the most powerful ways to find out, is it going right? Are we emphasising the things that matter? Are we doing anything that distracts people? Is this the talk that I actually wanna make? The more that you go through that process and then try to make refinements, when you stand in front of the audience, it will feel more natural. And that audience could be one person, can be five, could be 50, 500. The more that you verbalise things and say things out loud, the more natural it will feel, you’ll make it more natural, and it will come across that much better. You’ll connect with the people you’re talking with in a different way, actually.
– Yeah, there is this myth of I don’t want to sound too robotic; therefore, I’m not going to rehearse. I’m like, “No, actually, your rehearsal helps you “to say what you want to say, “not sound robotic, sound impersonal, “and driving the message in particular, “the message that you want to drive across.”
– I remember the first time I did a pitch. I was selling one of my products. I was really excited because we’d just created this mastermind group, and I wanted to put it out to the world. They were running an event. We had about 100, 120 people in our room. I was saying, “Okay, there going to be a lot of people “that are going to buy.” The price point was not huge so we’re expecting a lot of people to join. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not rehearsing out loud the pitch. So, during the presentation that I was used to deliver, perfect, everyone was engaged, everyone getting credible reviews, I can see the energy building up in the room. It was fantastic. Arriving the moment of the pitch, it was like, this drop of energy. I couldn’t find my words. I didn’t know where to go anymore.
– I feel for you.
– Oh. I feel for myself as well now. I remember one person bought, and it was like 120-pound product. Probably bought out of pity or out of compassion. Just said, “This poor guy up there, “give him some money, he needs it.” But that was the moment when I said, “No, that is not gonna happen anymore.” It was so bad that I said, “No, I’m not gonna put myself “in this situation again.” In particular, in the moment where you’re selling something and you have a lot of emotions going through.
– And so, in fact, what I would love to transition now is to the last part, which is, you have done your planning.
– You have rehearsed.
– Now, it’s game time.
– It’s game time. What’s other things that we need to consider, to be aware of, to prepare ourself the most during that time?
– Sure. Well, I think that the two most important things or parts of the pitch to practise and get rock-solid are the opening and the closing. The opening is the moment of most stress, and the closing is the moment of… Actually, the last thing you say is the first thing they will remember, and you will have the call to action in there. So the opening, I would always recommend people to have the first 60 seconds absolutely memorised. If it’s important, it’s worth doing the work and saying it out loud again and again so that it’s rock-solid. Also, what a lot of talks start with is a very sort of rambling approach, like, “Hey, I’m happy you’re here. “What a lovely location,” and, “Lovely to see some smiling faces here. “I know it’s raining outside,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What happens is, we think that we’ll know what to say in this little ice-breaking part. But what happens is, because the stress is there, we just start rambling if we haven’t made a plan. So my recommendation is get the first minute rock-solid, make a plan for exactly, even to the point of writing down, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.” I’ve seen somebody start their talk and they say, “Good morning, ladies, “oh, it’s the afternoon, isn’t it? “Oh, I knew I’d make a mistake.” That–
– You already…
– You’re lost already at the beginning and your platform for the talk is evaporated. If you get that minute, that first minute rock-solid, that is really a platform to success. Then the closing is the sum-up and what you want these people to do. So I always recommend to make it a plan for the last 30 to 60 seconds. Tell them the three big things that you really want them to remember. “What you’ve seen is this, this, and this.” And, “What we would love you to do is this.” And maybe a personal statement of, “I believe this can be really great for you. “This can make a massive change for you because,” and then put yourself on the line as the last message so that in that last 30 to 60 seconds, they get the key points, they know what they’re supposed to do, and they get a feeling about you as a professional and a person. I think that opening and closing are the things to pay the most attention to. Quite often, the middle is stuff that we’ve spoken about quite a bit. The opening and the closing, that’s the stuff to make sure is really great.
– Yeah, totally resonate with you because, as you mentioned, when you are going onstage, that’s the moment where the butterflies are there, the nerves are there. And so if you can get your mind going almost on autopilot on whatever it’s going to say, then suddenly your body also gets into the flow so you’re kind of allow, give yourself permission to get into the rhythm without putting yourself too much pressure on your mind to process this many piece of information in an emotional moment.
– Exactly that.
– So that’s so powerful. Very powerful.
– Okay, now, it’s time to go to the last part of the interview where we are lifting the veil. We’re lifting the veil, David. What is a tool or app or book, something that you have maybe done recently that you would recommend to our listeners?
– Yeah, there is an entrepreneur that I like very much. It’s a guy called Derek Sivers. It’s Derek Sivers, S-I-V-E-R-S. He wrote a book called “Anything You Want.” He had a big company in the ’90s called CD Baby. He sold it for 22 million. And gave all the money away, by the way. I think he’s got some really, it’s a very short book and it’s 40 short chapters. You’ll read it in a couple of hours. But I find that some of the principles in that book, I use every day. He’s very big on not focus on be big, but focus on just make your customers ecstatically happy. Solve their problems for them. If you do this, everything else that you want will follow. Just focus on these things. Focus on just the person whose problem you’re solving. I found that a real guideline all the way through developing this business. I always focus on the person that’s in front of me. I find that really helpful. The other thing is, yeah, what have I, I think, in general, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I love your podcast. I listen to one called “How I Built This,” I really like that one, which is interviews with people who have built big companies. I learned a lot from that. But Derek Sivers has also started something. He has a great blog as well, I must say, dereksivers.org. Very short pieces, just some ideas, and you’ll always come away with a different thinking.
– That man is sharp.
– Have you listened to the interview that he did with Tim Ferriss for his podcast?
– Yes, yeah, fantastic.
– It was the first time I was introduced to Derek Sivers. I think I listened to that interview at least three times. It’s just this unique way of seeing the world. A beautiful way also of expressing. We are talking about public speaking right now. It’s just a pleasure to listen to him, I found, personally.
– Yeah, he’s got a great voice. One last thing on that, one thing that I really took away. He said that he spent years learning to become a singer. He was writing songs and people kept telling him, “You can’t sing, you can’t sing.” It took him about 15 years of lessons and all sorts of efforts. Finally, he developed a good voice. And then people would say to him, “Oh, Derek, you’re lucky. “You got a great voice. “You were born”– I just love that example whereby it’s, you know. And there’s so many things from him that show you, in the end, it’s about hard work, it’s about focusing on what really matters, and not getting distracted by the nonsensical stuff around that. Keeping focused on solving those problems for people, that will always take you further.
– Yeah, absolutely. All right, David, thank you very much for being here with us today.
– It’s been an incredible interview. Definitely jampacked of nuggets. Make sure, guys, listen to this interview again because, as I mentioned, pitching is one of the most important skills that you can have, in particular if your business is based on your personal brand. If your business is based on yourself.
– You are getting out there. You are representing your business. You are the one, most of the time, going out there, getting clients. And if it’s not just you and you have a team, they gotta do it. And so that’s why it’s important to invest time, resources, money in learning this skill, because once you have it, it will be with you for the rest of your life.
– How can people reach out to you, David? What do you have for us?
– My website is best3minutes.com. The company is called Best 3 Minutes. At best3minutes.com, there’s various free resources. They’ll find the Pitch Canvas and a whole bunch of other stuff that will help them get started. We also have an online academy and a book. So get started with the free stuff and see whether that helps you get off the ground. For some people, that’s already enough, and then that’s great, then they can tell their story. If they need more help, they can find it at best3minutes.com.
– All right, brilliant. best3minutes.com. The link is in the show notes and in the comments, so make sure you check it out. David, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you very much
– Thanks very much.
– for joining us today.
– I was delighted. Thanks again.