Help: I Don’t Know How to Pitch!

Series: The art of pitching

27 June 2019

The Importance and Role of the Pitch

They’re enthusiastic about their product or service, they know it like the back of their hand, they’re ready to do everything required for their project, but they just don’t know how to sell. Entrepreneurs (most of them, at least) still have a long way to go to perfect the art of the pitch, and it’s time they got cracking!

“The pitch is where 99% of entrepreneurs trip up,” claims our former Dragon Danièle Henkel in a video about the art of the pitch produced for the Ville de Montréal’s event Parcours Innovation PME Montréal. One of the coaches of the event, Jean-Jacques Stréliski, an Adjunct Professor with the Department of Marketing at HEC Montréal, shares Danièle’s point of view. “They go through every single stage, from the initial idea to the development, but they never think about how to sell their idea! They think it will sell itself, which is a massive mistake. They’re the ones who have to pave the way for the way; to make sure that their audience understands and believes in the service or product. A pitch needs to create desire, pleasure. Pitching is an art.”

We’re living in a time where entrepreneurs are becoming stars and with an increasing amount of support systems. Executives are constantly invited to tell their side of the story in various forums, as Gaëtan Namouric, a creative strategist who’s leading a workshop during the event, has noticed. “Entrepreneurs don’t work alone as they once did when big families ran the business world. Today, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is much more complex and people are forced to work together. Entrepreneurs therefore need to nail the pitch in order to grow.”


The Magic Formula… What Magic Formula?

To get working on a pitch, you need to reflect and study its content. “Everything in a business is important, but you need to sort the essential from the vital,” explains Mr. Stréliski, the man behind multiple memorable advertising campaigns including “Chnac” (Renault 5) and “J’M” (McDonald’s) produced by Cossette (which he co-founded) and Publicis. “Entrepreneurs want you to know everything, but that’s not what’s convincing in a pitch. They’re not there to talk about their business, but rather to demonstrate how they can resolve the issue in question.”

So, what’s the magic formula for a successful pitch? Unfortunately, the answer is that it doesn’t exist. “Be wary of supposed ‘magic formulas’”, Mr. Stréliski warns, “the important thing is reflecting your message, perfecting the narrative, and showing some guts.”

As we saw with Sonia Boutin’s journey, understanding who you are as an entrepreneur is a vital element of the pitch. “That’s why one of the exercises in my workshops is dedicated to stories about our childhoods,” notes Mr. Stréliski. “Children don’t have any assumptions, they live in raw emotions. They’re capable of finding something sincere and authentic, something deep.”

In other words, a pitch should efficiently and powerfully combine knowledge (your expertise) and know-how (your attitude and behaviour).

Take Your Time

Preparing a pitch takes time. “That’s why we talk about ‘the art of the pitch,’ we want people to go above and beyond,” states the former adman. “There is no second place, we’re in it to win it! Like the Olympic champion, a pitcher has to be prepared to put on an extraordinary performance. It’s not something you do on an evening after work.”

Entrepreneurs need to work on it early, ideally with their team. “Within a company, you can’t be scared to say what does and doesn’t work in a pitch,” suggests Mr. Stréliski. “We tend to let the bosses talk first, when what we should be doing is letting the best people talk and sending our best pitchers out into the stadium.”

Just like an athlete, you need to practise, repeat your pitch out loud, alone, with your team, and in front of others…

Follow us! Next week, we’ll be talking with two entrepreneurs who tried out their pitch…

What is a pitch?

“A pitch is the presentation of a project, a concept, an idea, or a business,” explains Jacques Marsan, public and media communications coach. “A pitch is used to demonstrate relevance and to shape audience perception. Pitches help to personalize the message we want to share, to show our skills, and to win over people’s trust.”

About the author

Mélissa Proulx

About Mélissa Proulx


Mélissa Proulx is a journalist, news contributor, and copywriter. Passion and creativity have been driving her to create rich and diverse journalistic content since 2002.