Exercise: Starbucks Elevator Pitch
Mirrors and self-shot videos are great but they dont stand up to the feedback you get from real human interaction. Destin went on to mention that one of the best ways to get unbiased feedback is to give your elevator pitch in a coffee shop. He set the scene by telling the story of a fellow entrepreneur who would go to Starbucks, buy someone he had never met a coffee, and ask them if he could talk to them about a business idea. If they agreed, hed give the pitch of his friends business idea and get their genuine, honest feedback on it. So practice on others and see if you can use any of their feedback to your advantage.
Note: you can practice this exercise in any coffee shop; it does not have to necessarily be a Starbucks
One of the biggest detractors to a good presentation is a presenter who speaks too quickly. Destin pointed out that when we speak normally, we speak at about 160 words a minute, yet when we present, we get nervous and tend to speak at 180 words a minute. He continued to point out that Bill Clinton delivers great speeches because he speaks at a slow 100 words a minute. Working unnaturally slowly works. Practice talking through your pitch painfully slow so that your audience has time to absorb the whole of your pitch.
Exercise: Kill the Slide Deck
The material that supports is an excuse. Great presenters dont rely on their slides, their prezis, or their materiels for awesome presentations. Great presenters make great presentations because they engage the audience. Try practicing without your deck and try being more connected with the people observing. Destin also mentioned trying to move a step ahead of your slides: making your point then changing to the slide that that point is on. This will train you to only use the slides as backup and support.
Exercise: Keep Your Flow
Entrepreneurs often think that going off topic of your pitch and engaging in conversation with Venture Capitalists or investors is a positive thing and helps build relationships. And sure, it definitely builds relationships, but Destin firmly believes that investors would much rather see a pitcher who has strong control over the flow of meeting and can answer side questions quickly and return to the topic. These are imperfect environments... if you don't have the flexibility to deal with it you might get thrown off. In order to prepare for this, Destin recommended that during practice sessions, have friends throw obscure and trivial questions at you, answer them quickly, and get right back on your course.
So take these exercises and use them to drastically improve your pitch. You want to be a highlight of the evening, not for the whole seven minutes, but for the two or three times where people go oh shit. With practice, you can become the highlight of the evening. Thank you again to Fred Destin for his awesome pitch workshop.