I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 19, just getting out my emo / scene / whatever you want to call it phase, standing in front of a crowd of about 80 professionals ranging in age from their late 20s to early 60s. I was pitching my first entrepreneurial venture, EPdemics.
Walking up to the stage I was nervous, to say the least. I could feel my hands shaking as I gripped my notecards filled to the edge of points I needed to remember. I found where I wanted to stand on the stage and the MC asks “are you ready?” I responded with a nod, the MC then proceeds to say “timer starting…. NOW!”
I froze. It took, what had felt like an eternity, but was only 2 seconds for me to start muttering words. Each sound that left my mouth was accompanied by a tremble. I cared what everyone thought about me and my idea so much that it was the only thing I could think of. Every three words was followed by an “uhm” or a “like”. I honestly don’t think anyone, besides the guys I went to the event with, knew what I was talking about. That one minute on stage destroyed me, but enabled me to rebuild.
Walking away I was embarrassed as all hell. Humble brag, most things for me were easy growing up. I excelled in school without really trying, I wasn’t the best athlete but I at least made it to league if not districts in every sport I did, I had thought you could born with this innate ability to just be… awesome? Well, needless to say I was as wrong as I could possibly be. This was an amazing opportunity though, I found a weakness which needed immense improvement.
After taking a public speaking class as a prereq for UW I realized, it’s all in your head. A bad pitch is often attributed to you caring what others thing and panicking. Sure you can forget talking points, but guess what… The audience, judges, whoever the hell you’re in front of doesn’t know you planned to say ANYTHING! This means, you move on. Pitching is 100% about stage presence and how okay you are with attention being on you.
I’m still TERRIBLE at giving pitches as far as pitches are concerned but I developed my ability to be on stage. Could we say this was from being a robotics and computer science teacher for two and a half years to high school and middle schooler kids? Perhaps, but, I had to put in the time and become comfortable with it.
During my last pitch for Oli our live demo took a dive bomb, we had screen issues, video back up issues. Literally everything you could think of, in the area of pitching, that could go wrong, did. I didn’t let it get to me though, I accepted that happened and bounced back to the next topic.
The take away…
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It’s going to save you a lot of time being anxious, stressed out, and in your head.