So you’ve gotten your new deck, perhaps some talking points, or even a full script. You may even have seen another team member deliver the pitch or presentation. Now the challenge you’re facing is not quite the magnitude facing Hamlet, but it can feel quite daunting:
To memorize…or not to memorize?
Many salespeople tell me they don’t want to memorize their pitch because they want it to be more conversational and fear sounding canned or phony.
It’s a common misconception that memorizing lines or too much practice will cause you to sound like you’re performing bad Shakespeare. But if memorization was the cause of bad line readings people wouldn’t shell out millions of dollars to watch actors in film, on television and at the theater.
That canned type of delivery you fear has more to do with A) Not investing the time necessary to put the script into your own words, or B) Improperly rehearsing your pitch (Get some tips here on how to remain authentic using a script)
The truth about memorizing your pitch is this:
“The better you know your script, the better you will be going “off script”
Knowing your lines well enough so that you don’t have to struggle for the words or meaning gives you confidence and frees you up to place your energy on being present and responsive to your audience. Knowing your pitch allows you to flow in and out of it as the conversation directs, while still maintaining enough control to get back to points that you want to make.
Improvising or winging it works for a very few lucky people. But even for them, the results tend to be wildly inconsistent. That’s a lot to risk when the stakes are high!
So am I proposing you memorize your pitch word for word? Not exactly, while that does work for some salespeople, a great compromise is to memorize specific key lines and transition points for greater confidence and control.
5 Areas to Memorize in Your Presentation:
- The first line of your presentation.
Why do you want to have that memorized? Your first line is too important to leave to chance. Why pressure yourself to think of something brilliant on the spot? Also, as any actor will confirm, nerves are always at the highest when you first step in the spotlight. Having the first line of your pitch down cold will give you welcome confidence until your natural rhythm and practice kick in.
- The first line of every slide or topic.
Knowing how you’re going to introduce a slide ensures help you frame it in the best possible way. You don’t want to have to make a choice of where to start every time a new slide comes up. Decide on the best way to begin and stick with it.
- Transition lines.
Transitions between slides and topics can be very tricky. How does your current slide connect to the next? If you don’t have some sort of a transition, the next slide often feels like a surprise to you and your audience. Come up with a quick exit line ahead of time. For example, “now that we’ve talked about the challenges associated with how you’re currently collecting data, let’s take a look at a solution.” A little pre-planning allows for a smooth transition and makes you look like a pro.
- The last line of your presentation.
If you don’t know what your last line is, it’s very easy to keep talking – long after you’ve made your point. (Some salespeople have been known to talk to themselves right out of a sale by not knowing when to stop!) So know your last line and when you reach it. Let the impact of what you’ve just said resonate with your listener and allow them a chance to respond if they’d like to.
- Key lines.
These are any lines that you A) don’t want to forget or B) you don’t want to get wrong. Things like value proposition, benefits, and metrics are typically key lines. Struggling to get out your value proposition or transposing important numbers can cause your prospect to doubt your credibility. Avoid that by having those lines committed to heart.
Memorizing these key lines and sections will insure you consistently communicate your message, free you from your slides, and give you the ability to focus on your prospect and engage in a conversation with him/her, which is really what a pitch or presentation should be.