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Big Speech Coming Up? You're Practicing Wrong

If you want to know how you really look to investors, it's time to record yourself.
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Most CEOs never know how their pitch looks or sounds--until someone videotapes you at a pitching event. And then you watch the footage: OMG!

You’re not alone. When I saw my first video, all I could think when I stared at my hands was that they resembled giant lobster claws, in perpetual motion. Ugh. But I didn’t give up. Instead, I learned, through lots of practice in front of the camera. I went on to write, produce, direct and host Showtime telethons. Just like an athlete uses video to evaluate performance and get better, you can too.

So what kind of business owner makes the best pitch? Simple. The CEO who practices with the right tools. If you’ve been relying on your bathroom mirror, it’s time to expand your repertoire.

Using video is so simple, and it may very well be the single most underutilized CEO practice tool. We all have cameras in our phones and tablets. Maybe you even have a camcorder at home. Pick a tool, and use it.

First, script your key talking points. Then record, review, look, listen, learn and repeat. That’s it. Practice, practice practice delivers a more impactful presentation, period.

Taping yourself probably will feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it. Come up with a process for your practice sessions--something like this:

  1. Plug in your support slides to the flat screen, or use a VGA projector show the slides behind you.
  2. Switch your PowerPoint or Keynote to presenter mode and use your laptop as the teleprompter.
  3. Stand up and talk to the camera. Don’t talk to your screen.
  4. Afterward, check your time. How long did it run?
  5. Listen to the playback. Was the sound poor because you didn’t use a microphone? Ever watch TV when the talent’s microphone is not turned on? It sounds terrible. Make sure you’ve got the right tools.
  6. Check your lighting. Cameras are sensitive, so pay attention to the lighting in the room.

Before you start a practice session, put yourself in an audience member’s seat. What is the five-word headline takeaway you’d like the viewer to walk away with? Then, consider the following, from the perspective of your audience:

  1. Can they read the slides?
  2. Can they hear me?
  3. Can they see me?
  4. Can I see my own slides without turning my back to the audience and letting them see my bald spot?
  5. Are my slides readable from the back of the room?
  6. Can I read my own slides from the laptop screen?

The easier you make it for the audience to hear your thoughts and view supporting key messages, the more powerful the performance. That means there’s a higher probability of follow-up investment meetings.

So stop hating yourself on YouTube! Once you appreciate the power of video, you can use it to celebrate your business and your leadership and as a valuable tool for pitching.

IMAGE: tedxsf/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 13, 2013

MCADORY LIPSCOMB, JR. | Columnist

Mac has been the operating partner of a venture capital company, Accenture?s global lead for the media, entertainment and telecommunications, head of communications for a global television network, global mentor for IBM SmartCamp, ERA, pitch doctor for New York Angels, ASTIA, and UltraLights. He's a founding faculty member of General Assembly, the start-up center of New York City.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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