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When you experience a race against the clock while preparing your pitch, make sure to take some time to read this article. In this last edition of our ‘Pitch tricks by David Beckett’ series, Amsterdam’s Tony Robbins of Pitching tells you how to control your time and how to stand out as a professional.
Doing it wrong
People hate to listen to a pitcher that goes on past his allotted time. When the timer bleeps and people notice that the presentation should have ended, they move on their chairs and get impatient and uncomfortable. Pitchers themselves find it incredibly difficult to finish on time. They want to tell as much as possible in the short time span they’ve got, and most of the time they really don’t know how much words fit in their brief presentation.
Perceptions of reality
Why is that? David Beckett reckons it comes down to people’s different perceptions of time: ‘Everybody has a different idea on what time means’. David provides two examples of exercises with which he tries to make people aware of their perception of time. During his courses he will often ask his participants to do a 30 second pitch, without a timer. He lets them go on until they think the 30 seconds passed. Some finish in 20 seconds and others keep talking for 2.5 minute. Nobody gets it exactly right. Another thing he asks them is how many words they think they could say in 2 minutes. The numbers vary. ‘Last week I heard someone say 10, but people also answered 1000. And everything in between’. The right answer to the question ‘how many words can you say in 2 minutes (and remain understandable) ?’ is between 130 and 140 words. ‘It is a very effective thing to know, because you can simply calculate how much words and information you are able to say in your pitch’.
Become a master of time
The first step to become such a master, is to script your pitch. Be aware of the numbers (130 words per minute!) and try to go to the essence of your story. When you finish your script, you have to practice your pitch realtime. The best way to do this is to set the loudest alarm you’ve got and stop talking as soon as it goes off, no matter where you are in your pitch. Repeat this until you can stick to the time. It is even better to practice in front of an audience who all start clapping if the alarm beeps: ‘This way you replicate the pressure you might feel in front of an audience’. And, also quite important, you can ask for feedback in order to improve the quality of your pitch.
The most important thing David tries to tell us here is that your perception of time should be synchronized with reality. You have to stick to the time you’ve got in order to stand out as a professional and gain credibility. And a last tip: Finish 5 seconds before time. ‘No one in history ever complained that a pitch was too short’. So show them that you are in control.