What to do when the mic goes off –or when someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to
For many startups and budding entrepreneurs, the pitch can be both a stressful and rewarding experience.
So you spend your time building your slide pack. You investigate, research, and made sure all the reported numbers are just right. And on the day of the pitch, it all goes pear shape.
What do you do?
Never fear! There is always a something you can to make sure the odds are in your favour when things go wrong on the day of your pitch.
Also Read: Major blunders to avoid when pitching to influencers (Especially at SXSW)
Before the pitch
Prep like you’ve never prepped before. Get ready to face the worst case scenario like a boss!
- Do not over funky-fy your slide pack. No animation, no music. You can add the flavour you want during your delivery instead.
- Stick to 10 slides or less. Depending on the time allocated for your pitch.
- Keep a copy of your slide pack in the cloud and a USB.
- Keep a PDF version of the slide pack also.
- Have two to three printed copies of the presentation with you (to pull out in case of emergency).
- Practice your presentation with the slides.
- Now practice your presentation without the slides. Remember the key points you make that cries out for visual aids. For example, if you have a prediction of the market uptake or graphical view to emphasise your numbers against the competition. You will need to pull these out later.
- Practice your pitch with and without a mic. Trust me there is a method to this madness.
With a mic — you want to get comfortable with the sound of your voice with a mic.
Without a mic — you want to get comfortable speaking in front of an audience where you might have to project your voice more in cases that your mic stops working.
- Know your bottom line: What is your key message? Are you a differentiator? What is it that you came here to do? Get funded, get business guidance, get noticed, get advice?
Also Read: Elevate your pitching game with these tips
During the pitch
If during your presentation, your slides stop to work — then you reap the benefits being able to pull a confident and comfortable delivery because you have practised relying less on your slide deck.
You can hand out specific printed slide pages in the unlikely scenario that you are delivering your pitch without the slide deck.
These printed slide pages are only used to emphasise or justify a particular claim.
Note: Although you will have printed copies of your slide-pack, you don’t want to hand all the copies of the slide-pack to your audience or panel. You want to keep their attention to you and what you are about to say. Giving them a printed copy risks your audience getting distracted with them reading ahead, and flicking through your slide pack.
Remember to put your game face on
If your slide pack doesn’t work from the start and you are already standing on the speaking area, don’t fight the situation or just keep fiddling with your laptop and make the audience or panel wait. Keeping to your time shows that you value yours and other people’s time. Be mindful, move on and just give the dang pitch. Screw the slide deck if it doesn’t work on the day.
Let’s put some perspective here;
Your pitch is about your and your team’s story, and the journey you had so far. It isn’t about the slide pack.
So once you are in the speaking area, it’s game on, baby! Every second you are standing there in front of the audience and panel — whether you are speaking or not speaking, you are already telling them about you and your business.
Turn on your charm, crack a little joke, and smile. Breathe and let the show begin.
Also Read: Lais De Oliveira’s 4 essential elements for pitching
Your mic stops working
I’ve seen this many times, pitches delivered with a lapel mic or wireless mic.
All is going well, and somehow the mic dies. The speaker oblivious to the fact that the mic isn’t on anymore so she/he keeps talking. As a result, the audience yells out ‘we can’t hear you!’.
Then there is a change of mic or not — the speaker loses their train of thought and flow.
Here’s the thing, at worst case scenario you have to prepare that there could be a situation where you will speak without a mic.
This is okay in a room that holds five to 10 people, but in a room with a stage and with more than 10 people, how can you get ready for this unlikely scenario?
The answer is reading your audience. If you are speaking without a mic because a mic isn’t available, then look at the back of the of the room, are they telling you signs that they can’t hear you?
Signs such as squinting, leaning forward, shaking their head as you speak.
If you cannot gauge whether your volume is enough, then ask them. Don’t be afraid to interact with the audience; they will tell you if they can’t hear you. But then you need to bring your game on and make an effort to speak louder and clearer.
I once saw a very proficient public speaker deliver an inspirational speech. His mic stopped working halfway through his speech, noticing this has happened he continued to speak but changed his volume — so it’s as if nothing had happened at all.
The show kept going.
When you’re delivering a pitch for your startup, whether you are a seasoned or a first-time public speaker, your show must keep going.
Prepare like a Pro, deliver like a Pro.
Also Read: 9 pitching tips VCs and founders swear by
You forget your line (you loose your train of thought)
The most common unspoken reason why people panic when their slide decks stop working is that people rely on their slides as a mental queue to remember what they are about to say next.
Delivering a pitch isn’t a memory exercise. If you get to a point where you lose your train of thought, it is totally normal to go over your notes or your little cheat sheet.
Before the pitch, write down the points you want to talk about and divide them into sections of your talk. Try not to memorise it word for word but rather remember the points you want to hit.
By removing the expectation that you don’t need to memorise your pitch word for word, it then removes the stress you put on yourself that your delivery should be exactly how you memorised it.
You get asked a question you don’t have an answer to
One of the things that can be quite scary is after delivering the pitch you get asked different types of questions: legal, numbers, projections, potential problems.
Your mindset should be at “I have done the best I can, I have room to learn and improve.”
So when you get asked a question about something you don’t know — you can take this as room to improve and answer in all honesty that you haven’t looked into that area and move on.
You can answer questions by following the PREP formula.
Point — Reason — Example — Point.
“No, we have not investigated the Australian copyright laws (Point). Our business model is very similar to a popular international app which currently has a strong presence in Australia (Reason). For example, they showcase a person’s photo to the public which is the same functionality of our app (Example). I imagine that we can investigate what they have done, but it is worthy to investigate the copyright laws (Point). I appreciate the question and will look into it.”
Someone asks you multiple questions
Organise your thoughts. Recap the questions. Answer the question one by one and following the PREP formula.
Now, next time you find yourself getting ready to give a pitch use this guide to help you rock it!
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