Easy to say but not always easy to do in a competetitive pitch. Or in an interview. The pressures, particularly for the less experienced, will include the usual suspects- worry about your script, letting the team down, looking nervous, making eye contact, handling visuals, getting your message across, creating the right impression and so on….
With experience the suspects dwindle and your normal self, performing at its best, comes into play. And most people do have such a self. This is the one that comes alive in animated conversation where strongly held views are being expressed, and listened to. About a ‘must see’ movie, the restaurant you must try or whether Beckham deserved selection.
In these conversations you will not gaze, with unflinching eye contact, trying to dominate your audience or trot out a shopping list of loud uninterrupted reasons why. You will, naturally, gesture to make a point, you will, naturally, pause for thought, you will attack key phrases for emphasis and you will use occasional eye contact to check your message is connecting. Everyone has their own characterisic best self and this is what is needed in the pitch.
Usually, unless nerves really take over, this best self will start to assert itself as the pitch goes on but this may be too late. First impressions matter! All the emotional judgement swings into action in those few early seconds and will colour the rational conclusions of your audience throughout the pitch. Worse still, your ‘ inhibited’ self is not the one that inspires you, which makes inspiring the audience difficult.
Experience, training, rehearsal are all important, but one way to hit the ground running with your best self is to focus your preparation on how you start the pitch, start each segment, start each new argument. Think of your first words as the most important. Words that are natural to you and words, like signposts, that allow you to introduce the subject with confidence and attack. Get these right and all that follows will be easier.
As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”.
And if you can’t find that best self take Bob Marley’s advice: “When you smoke the weed it reveals you to yourself “.