For us, The Pitcher team, helping entrepreneurs to craft and successfully deliver investment winning pitches has been a mission number one. Mastering the art of the pitch is not an easy task and it all starts with building your confidence – in yourself and in your business/idea. To share with us valuable advice on the topic, we have invited for a special interview the talented Rabih Elkhodr, who talks about what it takes to become the confident public speaker and the best pitcher at every startup event.
Rabih is a communication trainer and public speaking coach that gets results. He has trained 1,000+ people across multiple industries in 8 countries and 3 languages throughout MENA and North America; and has worked with entrepreneurs; corporate executives and directors; governmental managers; undergraduate students; and TED speakers, coaching them to become confident public speakers. Rabih is also the author of “Public Speaking X: Tips to Unleash the TED Speaker in You”, a fun and easy-to-read guide to help you prepare speeches that are both inspiring and memorable.
Now you have over 10 years of professional experience in coaching people to become confident public speakers. Looking back, what made you decide that this is what you want to do?
Being in the spotlight was something that I had always enjoyed experiencing – whether it was imitating my high school teachers in front of class; representing classmates during end-of-year class councils; or acting in major university projections. Watching other people struggle with the spotlight was most certainly intriguing to me.
So I would say curiosity and a strong will to help were the main factors in making me take the plunge and venture into public speaking coaching.
You have worked with many corporate executives and directors, governmental managers and entrepreneurs. Why is good public speaking so important in the business world?
Because it’s sexy. And people like sexy.
Think about it for a second. How many times have you had to go through a painfully boring presentation at work? Or an excruciatingly agonizing series of speeches at an event? It’s a universally shared human experience. And it sucks.
Now think about that one speaker who mesmerized you to the point of you buying their product, smiling and crying within an interval of minutes, or simply standing up and clapping. Such speakers are in the business of creating memorable moments.
And when you start tapping into people’s emotions like that, that’s when businesses and careers take off. It’s my firm conviction.
What do you think is the first step to becoming a good public speaker?
Brené Brown has a fantastic TED talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability”. In that talk, she mentions a pivotal expression that summarizes the first step towards public speaking excellence:
“The courage to be imperfect”
If you can’t let go of your perfectionist drive, you won’t be able to progress as a public speaker. Once you allow yourself to experience anxiety; try things out; and make mistakes that’s when you begin to unleash your speaking potential. I see this first hand with my university students. Their progression within the course of a semester is simply awe-inspiring and should be a source of hope to everyone.
You can become a stellar public speaker. You just have to take that first step.
Mastering the art of the investor pitch is essential to all aspiring entrepreneurs. As a professional communication trainer, what do you think are the top five elements that make an outstanding startup pitch?
Allow me to summarize it with one key element:
It’s NOT about YOU. It’s about THEM.
I’ve seen countless entrepreneurs treating their startup pitch as their moment of glory. That’s a surefire recipe for failure. Make sure everything that you say, do, and show serves a purpose related to the problem you’re trying to solve; the need for that problem to be solved; and how your solution coming to life would impact as many people around the world, making it a better place for all.
And please: don’t interrupt investors while they ask you questions. Just don’t.
The startups that pitch on The Pitcher stage have 5 minutes to present their businesses in front of the investors. What should they focus on and what should they exclude in order to make the most of these 5 minutes?
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: in the world of business pitching, 5 minutes is an eternity! So it would be vital to craft an engaging story made up of sequential “stops” for the investors to keep listening until the end.
In terms of focus, that problem-need-solution continuum needs to be expressed early and quickly at the top of the pitch. And make sure to prove that you have established traction on the ground through numerical data. Flowery rhetoric is not enough.
Exclusions, on the other hand, can be tricky. You see: as custodians of their businesses, entrepreneurs get usually excited and would want to share all the details pertaining to their entrepreneurial journey within their 5-minute pitch. That won’t land you a second meeting with an investor. Be sparse with the information that you share in your pitch. Get people curious enough to ask you follow-up questions.
Bottom line? Get to the point.
What advice would you give to the entrepreneurs, who will pitch on the stage at The Pitcher 2018?
Allow me first to thank you for this interview and to wish the best of luck for The Pitcher 2018 finalists. Having stood next to many entrepreneurs before they go up on stage, I wish I could be there in person to rev up the finalists for their big moment!
I’ll give The Pitcher 2018 entrepreneurs the same advice I give to all my trainees:
While public speaking is a responsibility, it is also a privilege. Remember how lucky you are to be given a platform with an audience eager to listen to your words. Take a deep breath, smile, and speak your heart out for the next five minutes.
And as per the timeless words of Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society”:
Seize the day.
Make your lives extraordinary.”
Rabih has a Master’s Degree in Development Studies as a recipient of a full scholarship sponsored by the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Open Society Institute and the University of Leeds. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut. He consistently delivers professional, down-to-earth, and entertaining coaching / training / facilitation services. For business inquiries and more information, visit rabihelkhodr.me.
Thank you, Rabih, for this amazing interview! Keep on doing the extraordinary job that you do!