I have had a great idea, I have created a prototype, I have formulated a business plan and I have made appointments to see several potential investors over the
next few weeks. My problem is that I tend to become crippled by nerves when I have to speak in public — even if only a couple of other people are present. How can I overcome this? Is there anything I can do or should I hire a professional to pitch for me?
Jenny Jones, by email
Well Jenny, I’d much rather see a pitch of a product that I believed in and believe that the person understood their product. I’m looking for a good investment, not a perfect pitch. Everyone starts off being nervous about speaking in public, me included. But you have to overcome it because in business you end up speaking in public all day, every day. There are techniques you can use to help. First of all, think about the fact that when you are pitching you are generally doing it to someone who is looking to buy something. A lot of people forget that. They might think, “I’m in the junior position here, there is someone more senior than me in the room,” and that is what makes people nervous. You have to forget that. Your pitch does not have to be perfect, but it has to be credible, so if you know your product and know your market, then they shouldn’t be able to throw a question at you that you can’t answer. If they do come to you with a complete sidewinder, it’s OK to say, “That’s a very good question, but I don’t know the answer. And I will come back to you.” It’s never OK to bluff or lie.
On a practical level, rehearse — and rehearse out loud. Ask someone you respect and are slightly nervous of if you can pitch to them. If you can overcome your nerves with them you’ll come to the end and think “Actually that was OK.” And you must get someone who will be honest, because your friends and family will tell you it was brilliant!
My firm is seeking to hire an office junior and I recently circulated a shortlist of candidates to senior colleagues, one of whom looked them up on social networking sites. One candidate in particular was clearly “letting her hair down” in some of her photographs. Her CV and references are more impressive, though. Should I still consider her for the job?
Eric Ballander, by email
When are people going to learn? If you put things on Facebook then they are out there for all to see, and people forget that. If someone does not want something viewed, they shouldn’t have put it on Facebook! And if it is up, that tells me they haven’t considered the implications.Would I employ her? It would depend on the level of the job, on what I saw and if I was worried by what I saw.
I would interview and tell her to take the pictures down, and make it very clear that the pictures were a problem. If her CV was very good, then I would say she would have to take the pictures down if she wanted to be offered the job.
the quick fix to…
…losing your nerves
1 Know your product and your market inside out, so you’re prepared for any question at the pitch
2 Rehearse out loud, preferably to someone you respect — a bank manager or your GP
3 It’s OK to say, “I don’t know but will get back to you.” It’s never OK to lie
4 You’re not ‘junior’ to the investor. You want to sell
and they want to buy
Deborah Meaden is author of Common Sense Rules, £18.99
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