What can be a better way to improve your pitching skills than learning them from the pitch master? By saying that, Alter State is delighted to present the real pitching guru - Walid O. El Cheikh. Walid shared his long-year expertise with our Nordic-Baltic Women Innovation Sprint participants during the pitch training session on November, 2021.
Walid is also the author of Pitching For Life and the creator of 8 Seconds Pitching. Throughout his career, he has coached thousands of startups, managers, executives, and artists. Moreover, Walid's coaching style focuses on learn-by-doing and how to pitch vs. what is pitching. Walid wants to unleash your confidence when presenting in front of people or any other setting.
We indeed had a blast talking with Walid. In this interview, you will have an opportunity to find out all the golden tips for mastering your pitch. Also, get to know personal pitching stories from Walid's experience and learn more about main pitching mistakes.
Walid O. El Cheikh
How has the journey of pitch coaching started?
It actually started by mistake.
I was a program manager in a top executive education provider. One time, a professor canceled the full-day of training on the same day. You can imagine many emotions going through your mind, but in that case, I had to provide a day of training by myself. I improvised and decided to give the group a taste of the startup world. And you know what? They loved it, and even the feedback was excellent.
From the experience that happened by mistake, I started coaching everywhere. I developed my content, improved my approach, and with time, I applied psychology, design thinking, improvisation, and acting techniques to my coaching.
The more I coached, the better I understood - people need pitching skills not only when running a business but also at work, home, school, and in most other social situations. And this approach is the essence of my book - Pitching For Life. It adapts startup pitching to everyday situations at work, school, and different situations.
Merely speaking, why mastering your pitch is so important?
People have been pitching since the beginning of time before we even spoke. We pitched with gestures or images. As humans, we start pitching from the first hour we are born, e.g., a baby cries for her mother’s milk.
Startup pitching is only one in a million examples where we present something and ask from someone. Sadly, we only think of pitching in the context of a startup pitch to investors. I actually observe it everywhere.
In other words, pitching is essential for your survival because you need to remain as a human, professional, and founder. And answering why mastering your pitch is vital, I can say that you survive when you communicate well and influence others. For example, you need to pitch for a job, for a place in a university, for customers to buy your products, for partners to collaborate, for managers to give you a promotion, for investors to invest, for your girlfriend to marry you, and many more. This is how it is so important!
What does pitching mean to you generally?
Pitching is a presentation in which you ask something. For example, a startup founder can ask investors to invest, a co-founder - join your team, a partner - collaborate with you, and many more.
Pitching is a strategic way of communicating where you want to persuade someone about your ideas, and pitching is everywhere. You present something, and then you ask something. You introduce the message, describe the arguments, and explain the question.
A pitch presenter needs to learn how to present from 8 seconds, or less, up to one hour pitches. Also, a pitch requires to be informative, memorable, and concise. Pitching is beautiful when it is correctly done. It is something that anyone and everyone can learn, just like riding a bike!
What makes the pitch deck ideal?
Pitch-deck is excellent when it complements the verbal presentation, i.e. when your audience sees your slides. It helps her understand what you are saying more comprehensively.
The valuable tip here is to watch the video “Death by PowerPoint” on Youtube.
A deck you use for presenting is different from the deck that you send a pitch deck for reading. The ideal strategy is to have a variety of decks, not just one. I recommend you divide your decks in terms of purpose - verbal vs. reading, and audience - investor vs. partner vs. co-founder.
When I consult startups or join their advisory board, I do not accept less than 12 different decks. You may ask why? Because even investors can be introverts or extroverts. People are persuaded in different ways. Some like numbers & facts, others like concrete examples. Finally, they all want to see what is in it for them, i.e., the profitability plan. You need to focus on your pitch deck and focus your argumentation on the purpose and audience!
What are the main 3-5 mistakes that people make while pitching their ideas?
People usually have their logic off, too much noise, and lack of focus. Here is a formula to avoid mistakes: Maximize your logic, minimize your noise, and focus your argumentation.
Logic means that the presenter knows his questions and her pitch strategy.
Noise is every unnecessary word that does not add any value to a point or context. You can say something in 5 words versus 12.
Focus is about argumentation. You say the right arguments that fit the ask, the purpose, and the audience.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is not putting maximum effort into their pitch. I will leave this to your imagination, but say one thing: your audience knows when you are faking it or not doing your best!
Can you mention 3-5 golden steps to successful pitching?
Prepare well. Check your pitch logic, write down your content with minimal noise, and focus your argumentation on matching the question, the purpose, and the audience.
Practice on people vs. mirror. The mirror does not show human emotion except yours.
Have a strong start and end. People remember the most at the beginning and end.
Bring the quantity and quality of your argumentation. A 60-second pitch aims for 10+ arguments. In a 2-minute pitch, it doubles.
Be human first. You are pitching to other humans. Keep it simple, take it easy, and smile.
Can you shortly mention the most memorable pitch in your career?
One time, I coached 7-11-year-olds in Bangkok. They were pitching for a pet from their parents. They truly changed my life because they showed me that any person can learn to pitch appropriately. Simply speaking, they were fantastic, they made their parents proud, and it was very emotional in the end.
The funny fact about this session is that I have coached CEOs, executives, ambassadors, and celebrities. These kids outperformed them in a similar style workshop on mindset, content, and delivery levels. It happened because of their insane ability to learn fast, their immense creativity to an argument, and their outrageous courage to create a pitching show. It was super fun and beautiful to watch them and their parents’ reactions!
Million of thanks for such an amazing interview, Walid!
This article was updated on February 6, 2021.