Pitching is not at all like grad school presenting

We’ve been doing a lot of pitching this month. We have another one today, and a couple more lined up before the month is over. Which is making for a crazy busy month.

The biggest thing I’ve been realizing as we have been working on them (and a revised business plan) is how accustomed I have become to academic writing and presenting. And, reminded by just how dry that writing and presenting style is.

So it’s been a struggle, to figure out the “story” and how to put the slides together in such a way that they are not designed like an academic. And instead are engaging, and that such the person in from the first slide and hold their attention right through to the end. I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time designing slides. And trying to cut words out. And trying to find just the right way to say things.

It’s such a different way of speaking. Academic writing/presentations are all so grounded in truth (or at least you’re trying to do so). You want to say what the facts were (related work) and what the new facts you’re adding (you research results). Pitch presentations require a lot of fudging and guessing. If it was a perfect world, and you were able to get X% of the market and convince them to pay Y, then you’d have a total revenue of Z. But who knows what’s going to happen. Maybe you’ll actually get 3 times X or maybe you’ll actually get less than 1/4 of X. And Y? You don’t actually know what the pricing will be until you’re out there and you learn what people really are willing to pay. So instead, your presentation is made up of “facts” than you’re hoping will one day turn into real facts. But you have no real basis for why you chose what you did. And so, at the end of the day, when they ask you that question, it’s all about who can BS the best and most convincingly. So totally different (and yet, in some ways, so totally the same).

Of course, the bigger lesson will be to learn from all of this experience, and bring it back to my research work. Because really, just because in the past slides and papers are boring, doesn’t mean they should be. In fact, I think most of us would cheer if they suddenly weren’t. Who wouldn’t prefer an exciting presentation that’s engaging and leaves you wanting to join in?

Either way, I’m actually going to be kind of glad when these pitches are over, and I can sink back into the “comforting” world of academia – where it may be still scary and painful and stressful, but at least I mostly understand what’s expected from me.


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