Life Lessons from Pitching

As my life has morphed over the past ten years (from uber-domesticated mom to career woman for starters), I’ve discovered a passion for pitching, coaching and judging competitions. Over the COVID-19 shutdown, the things I missed most were: 

  • random hugs 
  • my cousins 
  • pitch competitions 

As we have re-emerged into an event-friendly world and pitch competitions are back in action, I’ve realized that many of the things that make pitches great are also pretty useful life skills. So, here’s my take on ways you can elevate your business pitch to the next level—and also just be better at life.  

1. Know your audience.

Are you surrounded by seasoned investors, potential customers, and/or people who would be great brand ambassadors? Whether you are at a professional networking event or a casual get-together, YOUR AUDIENCE MATTERS. Consider who is around you before you open your mouth and both you and your business will see better results. 

2. Read the room.

Similar to #1 but much more complex. In addition to WHO is in the room, be aware of what’s going on in the moment. If you and your hang-out-on-the-weekend colleagues are in a room full of leadership, adjust your messaging. If you casually run into a potential investor at brunch with his family, that is not the time to go in for the kill. Be aware and respectful. That’s good business and life advice.  

3. Keep it simple.

Guy Kawasaki has a great rule he calls 10-20-30, geared to developing a winning pitch deck. He writes, “The more slides you need, the less compelling your idea.” The same concept is true even when you’re not standing in front of a Power Point. Concise, clear messaging keeps your audience engaged. Deliver just enough information to drive the conversation. You’ll get better questions (and a better reputation) that way. 

4. Call to Action/Know your ask

Great delivery of content is rarely enough on its own. What do you want people to DO with this information? Whether you are pitching your startup, or interviewing for a new position, or even assessing a potential babysitter, it is important to have a clear Call to Action. Know your ask first, which will drive the rest of your presentation.

5. Relaaaaax

Despite what the producers of Shark Tank would like you to believe, no one’s destiny is defined by a single pitch. Know your material inside and out, practice until it becomes natural, and then cut yourself a break. Every presenter I coach is required to watch Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk on body language. You should, too. It will change your life. And I’ll power pose right alongside you any time.  

Find more tips on building YOUR pitch, plus other resources for innovators and business owners in our Tools directory at

About the Author

Amber Yourman is a serial entrepreneur and startup mentor currently hatching genius plans with HSC Next, the innovation team at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. She has a degree in entrepreneurial management from TCU and a passion for ecosystem building. She lives for family cookouts, great books and being outside. All thoughts, views, and comments are her own and do not reflect the thoughts, views, or comments of The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth or Sparkyard.

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