Coming up with a brilliant idea is tough. But getting other people to support it? That’s where the real work begins. Even when it comes to explaining the smallest of concepts, it can be hard to win people over. And, as your thinking gets bigger, pitching to others becomes harder still. So, when your idea is so ingenious it could change the world, how can you present it in a way that ensures its revolutionary nature is truly understood?
The problem is, people tend to back ideas they can easily envision being successful. As a result, when your pitch claims to be able to make a radical, large scale difference it can be hard for others to see how. After all you are asking them to understand something that hasn’t been done before.
This is the challenge that faces students entering Shell Ideas360. Teams come up with often highly technical and complex ideas to solve the world’s food, water and energy problems. As the judges come from all walks of life, they have to learn to translate these game-changing ideas in a clear and persuasive way, so anyone can see how their idea could make a meaningful impact.
Here this year’s winners of the Audience Choice Award, Team Smart Panels, from the University of Austin, Texas – Taylor Zhao, Malvika Gupta and Mandeep Patel – to share their insider tips on what makes a winning pitch.
Q1. What are the golden rules to creating a winning pitch?
TZ: Know your audience, and ensure your ideas are clear and easy to understand. This way you can appeal to those in front of you, anticipate their questions, and really hammer home the points you wish to make.
MG: Have a clear knowledge of the technical information you’re presenting. Additionally, take advantage of both your team members and mentors. Everyone has different strengths, so allow people to maximise these to offer a variety of perspectives.
MP: As the others said, keep it clear, simple, and work well with your team. And be positive. Show how much you want to be there.
Q2. How did you prepare?
All: Practice. Lots and lots of practice – both together as a group and individually. We critiqued each other’s sections to keep the presentation consistent and conversational.
Q3. What are the most important areas to cover?
TZ: Leave your audience with a couple of sharp, key facts, and repeat them throughout.
MG: Explain the impact of your ideas, and how they are unique, to ensure you are remembered.
MP: Offer as much clarity on the challenge you’re solving, and support this with graphics and images.
Q4. What did you learn from the pitching process?
TZ: How to speak to different audiences, and react to viewpoints accordingly. It also helped me to think on my feet.
MG: I learned how important it was to have a team with a diverse background and good mentors. As we dove deeper into creating our pitch, we kept uncovering more holes to fill and questions to answer, and support from the others was crucial to moving forward.
MP: While teams are important, at times it’s necessary to work remotely. From this, I learned how to develop and contribute to our ideas on an individual level, and pull together with the others later.