Here’s The Pro Presentation Tip You Might Hate… But It Yields Results You’ll Love

Most small business owners remember it well – the first time they had to explain their new business to another person. Maybe it was to a friend or acquaintance at a party, glass of wine in hand. Maybe it was to a relative who was highly skeptical about why you’d leave the comfort and stability of your “real job.” Or maybe you had eight minutes to wow an investor who would write a $20,000 check to the team with the best venture pitch.

No matter which situation you found yourself in, chances are you look back on it feeling like you could have said it better. (At Owning My Own, we know we did!) That’s why we asked professional presentation coach Paul Vorreiter, owner of Reflective Spark, to share some of his best tips for talking about what you do – whether you’re pitching V.C.s or just having a conversation over drinks.

Most presenters try to speak like they would write, using language that sounds intelligent. But Paul says that’s not the way to get through to an audience. “People do business with people they know, like and trust,” he said. “They respond to real, authentic language.”

“Just yesterday I saw a presentation that had great information but was very technical,” Paul added. “I told him to cut most of the tech and talk to me like we’re having a conversation. Don’t use big words. Take what you said in 10 minutes and try to say it in 30 seconds.”

Paul could say a lot on this subject – and he does, with professional pitch deck workshops that range between four hours and three days – but one key takeaway is that it’s not possible to make one slide deck that fits every single audience. Instead, Pauk helps clients build up to 50 slides and then choose roughly 10 that are best suited whatever person they’re pitching to. “Otherwise, you’ll find yourself saying, “Here’s my pitch, but this slide doesn’t really apply to you… <skip>, <skip>, <skip>,” he said.

Videotape yourself giving your pitch; then watch the footage. In fact, Paul makes his coaching clients videotape their pitches five times in a day. “You’ll hate it,” he says. “Everyone hates watching themselves on camera. But you’ve gotta do it to get comfortable.”

After watching the first video, Paul instructs his clients to choose one thing they’d like to change in the next take. He used the technique himself and found he licked his lips a lot while speaking. Once he corrected that habit, he noticed he did weird things with his hands and focused on that in the next video.

Paul tells speakers to run through their presentations ten times by themselves and four more times in front of an audience. And that brings him to his next nerve-wracking suggestion:

“Invite four friends over for dinner. Feed them and get some good bottles of wine. Then practice your pitch in front of them,” he says. (He suggests not choosing “the nice friends, but the nasty ones. The ones who are the most honest.”) Run through the pitch at least four times, allowing the guests to start and stop you whenever they want to give feedback.

“If you’re willing to put this kind of work in, it transforms your presentation,” Paul said. “Even if you do half the 10-4 rule, you’ll be better than most speakers out there.”

RELATED: Paul doesn’t just work with small business owners — he is one. Learn how he reinvented Reflective Spark after five years in business and became the professional speaking coach he is now.