Vocal Coach Elissa Weinzimmer Shares 5 Tips for Improving Your Delivery and Body Language During a Pitch

Investor pitches are an essential aspect of many startup founders’ work life. But often, founders take a cookie-cutter approach to pitching and end up sounding unengaging and uninterested, which can turn investors away. Labs mentor Elissa Weinzimmer, founder of Voice Body Connection, held a session to share her five tips for improving your body language and tone during pitches to make investors comfortable and engaged to close more deals.

Tip #1: Be present

Even though it may be the last thing you think about, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re doing with your eyes while you’re speaking. “Very often when we go into a pitch situation, our eyes glaze over and go into this ‘not there’ state,” Weinzimmer says. “And we're not really seeing what's in front of us. We're just delivering our pitch that we've said a thousand times.”

Investor pitches are some of the most important moments in the life of your startup, so being present and aware is critical. “Be present and don't be robotic about what you're doing. Obviously you have goals for this pitch, but remember that you're actually somewhere and not in some far off land and you need to be there,” Weinzimmer says.

Tip #2: Warm up before your pitch

It’s understandable and expected to be a little tense before going into a pitch meeting. To help loosen up and relax beforehand, Weinzimmer recommends doing some warm-up exercises. “We always talk about body language when we're talking about public speaking. And this is easier said than done, but you want to let your gestures be natural and open and free. To set your body up ahead of time to feel free and easy, do some breathing exercises or quick yoga,” Weinzimmer says. “Go power pose for two minutes in the bathroom stall. Basically you want to put your body in a situation where you feel powerful and you're letting yourself take up space so when you walk into that pitch room, you’re already mentally ready.”

When you go into a pitch in a tense state, you may stumble and rush through your pitch in an effort to just get it over with. When you take some time to relax beforehand, you allow your body time to decompress, which can have a positive effect on your body language and tone throughout your pitch. “The goal is to get rid of the tension you’re feeling. It's very likely that oftentimes what we think we should be doing outside the room before we go is reviewing all the facts. We should be making sure that we don't forget to say this or that,” Weinzimmer says. “Instead, spend that time allowing yourself to get into the state where you feel powerful and relaxed. Because you know your pitch already. You've said it a thousand times. Spend those couple minutes right before you go into the pitch, breathing, moving, allowing yourself to become present.”

Tip #3: Try breathing through your mouth

Breathing is something that we usually don’t think twice about. But when you’re meeting with investors, the way you breathe can have a huge effect on the delivery of your pitch. “The most helpful way to breathe when you're giving a pitch is actually in and out through your mouth.  The reason for this is if an investor is asking you questions, if your mouth is closed and your energy is shut off, you don't feel or appear accessible,” Weinzimmer says. “If you open your mouth and breathe while someone's talking to you, it looks like you're ready to respond and you're in a continuous state of engagement.”

Tip #4: Slow down

Investor pitches are your opportunity to shine and impress investors. With this in mind, take your time and speak slowly and clearly. Every word you say during your pitch is important, if you rush through it you’ll end up giving the impression that what you’re saying can be dismissed. “If you speak slowly, that gives your audience enough time to absorb what you actually do and digest it. If you give your audience information too quickly, they get backed up and they can't absorb it,” Weinzimmer says. “It's almost like digesting food. I can't take another bite of food until I've chewed and swallowed my food.”

As you’re speaking, try to notice whether or not you’re getting cues that your audience is understanding what you’re saying. “When you're practicing your pitch with someone, before you even go into the pitch, what you can do is sit with someone and have them give you some sort of audible cue every single time you say something some sort of acknowledgment of ‘I got it,’” Weinzimmer says. “Because once you start to get into the rhythm of how long it takes for the, ‘did you get that?’ moment, you're actually using your audience to indicate pace.”

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This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

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