Ditches & Pitches

Everyone makes pitches, some more formal than others. But with every presentation there are ditches to overcome.

Ditches are the many, critical choices to be made before developing your pitch. They are the determinants of your presentation’s success. PowerPoint failures occur before the pitch.

There’s no one correct choice but ignore them at your peril. Who else but you loses, or ends up looking like a fool?

Consider these ditches as your prep work prior to all live pitches.

Presentation Duration (Time)

Often your audience decides the time available for your pitch but you don’t have to use it all.

How long should your pitch be?

There are as many answers as there are pitch situations, here are a few thoughts.

If you are in the position of determining the length of your presentation, shoot for 20-30 minutes. Why? The adult attention span is short.

How short? Our focused attention is about 8 seconds. That’s to a stimulus that attracts attention, like a ringing telephone. Our sustained attention on one thing is about 20 minutes at a time.

We can choose repeatedly to re-focus on the same thing, which is why we believe we can “pay attention” to things that last for more than a few minutes, such as hour long presentations. In reality, we’re continually re-focusing in much shorter increments.

Where did your audience go in between those re-focusings?

So make your opening exciting and less is more. Use less time than you’re given. But make that time count. You’ll notice this isn’t about slide count. You can have a mesmerizing pitch with one slide, or a boring one with 100 slides.

Audience Size

You rarely control the number of people in your audience. But your presentation  TECHNOLOGY will differ by audience size, and to a lesser degree DURATION, TAKEAWAYS and CALL TO ACTION.

Use the following three sizes to help you over those ditches.

1) Small Show- 1-2 customers, in-person or by web meeting

2) Medium Group – 3-5 customers, in-person and/or some by web meeting

3) Big Theater – 10 or more customers, in-person and/or some by web meeting

Presentation Technology

Technology includes the obvious types, plus there is the “no-technology” of just presenting directly without aides. Here are the ditches for technology, once selected you have to get over it appropriately:

Audience Location

Technology in general has made it possible to pitch an audience when you’re not in front of them. LOCATION is a minor ditch but does direct you to making better decisions, specifically for choice of TECHNOLOGY and DURATION.

  • Audience all in one location physically
  • Some together, others remote
  • All remote

Audience Feelings about your Topic

This ditch can be huge to overcome and drives your choice of TAKEAWAYS & CALL TO ACTION. Also to some degree your LEAVE BEHINDS. Is your audience there because:

  • They have to be there (mandatory)?
  • They paid you to be there?
  • You paid them to be there (attendance incentive)?
  • They volunteered their time to be there (optional)?


To get over this ditch you must be hyper clear on the 3 ideas-concepts-info bites you want your audience to walk away with. Literally, if they were asked an hour after your pitch what it was about, they would be able to recite these 3.

Call to Action

This is the one action your audience must do. To get over this ditch, the call to action must be observable, meaning you’ve got to be able to tell if your audience has acted on your call.  Keep it simple, such as:

  • Buy from you
  • Take a specific action
  • How you want them to feel
  • How you want them to be

Leave Behinds

What prompts should you leave behind? You don’t always need to have them, but if you do, don’t give them a full printout of your PowerPoint. Your deck is not your leave behind. Leave behinds could be the detailed report that supported your pitch, or a high-level synopsis of your pitch (1-page).

Types of Pitches

All the ditches above apply to these common types of pitches. Pitches make specific ditches more important than others depending your type of presentation.

Introductory Presentation

You’re trying to pre-qualify for something, either getting pre-qualified onto a bidders list, or acceptance to an organization or community.

In this presentation you’re presenting your capabilities and qualifications; the reasons the audience should accept you.

Sales Showtime

This is the moment of truth. You’re trying to make a sale, seal the deal, get the contract.

Here you’re presenting a customized solution that will solve customers’ problems and help them gain improvements. You should already be pre-qualified but you may have to show how you’re “more” qualified than the competitors.

Educational Seminar

This is the “sage on the stage” presentation. Often performed at trade shows, conventions or industry meetings.

Here you’re enlightening the audience with insights or new information but there may not be a lot of interaction.

Training Session

These are more intensive and interactive than an educational seminar. They have a lot of give and take.

Here your presentation goals are those of adult learning: your audience:

• Needs to know the info you’re training them on
• Can relate it to their experience
• They’re involved in the planning &evaluation
• Immediate relevance of what your training them to their work
• Sees it as problem-centered,
• Sees your training as based on internal versus external motivators

Don’t Fall In

Starting from an intentional and aware position increases your chances of success with your pitch. Audience watch out.

  • What do you do to pitch better?

Image by Pieter Geerts

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