Pitching a proposal

Whether you’re pitching in person, by video or in writing, detailed planning and preparation will help you to persuade your audience and achieve your aim.

Tip 1: Know your audience

By nature, pitching means that you are aiming to convince a particular audience of something.

If you’ve been given criteria outlining expectations and providing guidelines, these will give you a good idea of what your audience is looking for. However, if you really want to understand and meet their needs, motivations and expectations, it’s a good idea to do some deeper analysis.

Ask yourself:

  • Who will see my pitch? What’s their current role and background?
  • What is their level of knowledge on this topic? Are they expert or non-expert? How much background detail will I need to give?
  • What level of influence do they have? Who will make the ultimate decision?
  • Why would they be interested in my proposal? What are the main benefits for them?
  • If this pitch is responding to a call for submissions (e.g. a case study competition), what are they hoping to achieve?
  • What information do they expect or need from me?
  • What unique knowledge, perspective, or expertise might I be able to offer?
  • How much time do they have to engage with my pitch?

Tip 2: Refine your message

Often, pitching focuses on two key areas: (1) defining a ‘problem’ and (2) presenting a related solution.

Part 1: Define a problem or gap

You must convince your audience that there is a genuine need for your solution. You might identify an existing problem (e.g. a lack of suitable spaces for group work on campus), or try to find a ‘new’ one (we all accepted the fact we had to get up to change the TV channel until someone saw it as a problem and invented a remote control).

Try to write a problem statement that focuses on the benefit for your target group, not just you.

For example, if you’re pitching a new app to help students form study groups, explain why it’s currently difficult for students to do this, and why study groups are important for learning.

“Students need access to study groups to help them connect, support each other and learn effectively by discussing ideas, but there is no systematic way of identifying potential group members.”

Part 2: Sell your solution

Focus on what outcome you’d like: what’s your goal? You might want to secure investment in a new product, service, research proposal, or screenplay; or perhaps have committee members commit to taking action on a particular issue, such as increasing the number of bicycle racks on campus.

Link back to specific aspects of the problem to show how your solution will address them.

For example:

"Our app will match students with others who are taking the same unit and have similar timetables and study goals."

Tip 3: Design for your medium

You might find yourself pitching in writing, in person or by video (live or recorded). Some design tips are the same for all formats and media.

  • Be clear, concise and use a suitable tone – you want to make a good first impression!
  • Chunk your ideas and present them in the most logical order
  • Use functional and interpretive language such as (the first problem…, however…, this is significant because…, etc.) to help signal relationships between ideas and mark important sections.
  • Leave time for drafting and editing.

Tips for writing, presenting live and recording a video

  • Writing

    Make sure your ideas flow logically from one to the other and your key message is clear. You’re not there in person to answer questions so it’s important to explain your ideas in detail.

  • Presenting live
    • Think carefully about how your voice, visuals and content align and support each other. You want to keep your audience’s attention on you and what you’re saying.
    • Spend time practicing your pitch in full – it’ll help with nerves.
    • Prepare for any questions that might come up (think about what you would ask).
  • Recording a video

    Fine tune your video editing tips – this site has some great tips on Producing your own video.

Final tip

The purpose of a pitch is to convince your audience of something – success depends on your ability to align your goals with theirs and this requires a great deal of planning.

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