“Attention is the only currency that matters” Beth Susanne, pitch coach

We all have in mind wonderful speakers, from Steve Jobs to Martin Luther King. The power of a good pitch to make a difference, to mobilise people or resources, is beyond question. For researchers, a good presentation may be the difference between being invited to be member of a consortium or not, between getting funding or not, between receiving an ERC grant or watching the grant go to someone else. On May 14-15, a group of 9 IRB Barcelona researchers (from PhD students to postdocs) participated in a 2-day course to learn about “Pitch Strategies That Get Investors to “YES”!”, organized by the Innovation Department with the support of La Caixa Foundation Young Biomedtec programme. The expert in charge of preparing our scientists to deliver a successful presentation was Beth Susanne, an experienced coach from Silicon Valley who has spent the last six years training companies and institutions across Europe. Beth has coached around 2000 companies and, by training their CEOs and managers, she has helped her clients to secure over €7 Billion in funding to date.

  • What happens if you give a weak presentation?

If you can’t communicate the value of what you’re creating in the world quickly and powerfully, then you won’t get the resources you need in terms of money, people or just time. Nowadays, many selection processes, from grants to recruitment processes, require pitching in front of a person or panel. In that moment, attention is the only currency that matters.

  • What are the key elements for a successful presentation?

It’s crucial to grab the audience’s attention from the very beginning, so they remember who you are and the value you offer.  It’s very important to describe the problem in a way that anyone can relate to, avoiding being too technical. Then you have to describe the solution and what’s unique about your approach, how it works, what’s the business model (if it applies), and the money or resources you need to bring it to good term. And finally, it’s very important to introduce your team. Nobody expects you to do all the work on your own, so having a good team is a relevant asset.

  • And what about personal skills?

It’s very common to get nervous when facing these kind of presentations. To address this, there are breathing and visualization techniques that can help. But the important thing is that you have to be authentic, in your own voice. You have to have confidence, understand clearly the message you are trying to convey, and practice, practice, practice until it flows, just like breathing. In the end, what needs to come across is that there is an issue out there that is huge and overwhelming for the world, one that you are actually addressing, and how amazingly you are addressing it.