In Episode 7 we spoke with Pitching expert Peter Hopwood and answered the question “What’s the Future of … Pitching for Success?”

Peter is a communications and presence coach, public speaking and pitch trainer and conference host.

We spoke with Peter from Croatia where he lives and works.

We discussed a range of topics relevant to companies of any size including:

  • Getting people curious about our business
  • Simple tricks for networking events
  • How to stand out
  • Mistakes people make when pitching
  • Why the first 60 seconds is key
  • The worst pitch eve
  • Show you care what you’re talking about
  • Think about your style and tone
  • Getting your nerves under control
  • Your first and last 90 seconds
  • Owning the pause
  • How being different gets you noticed
  • Channelling Don Draper from Mad Men
  • The importance of rehearsals
  • Three things you can do next week
  • Why should people listen to you?
  • Think about your “sexy secret”

Find out more about Peter

Episode Chapters

01:17 The lift pitch gone wrong
01:54 Getting people curious about our business
02:58 Simple tricks for networking events
03:43 How to stand out
04:13 Mistakes people make when pitching
05:32 Why the first 60 seconds is key
05:53 The worst pitch ever
06:19 Show you care what you’re talking about
07:06 Think about your style and tone
07:48 Getting your nerves under control
08:47 Your first and last 90 seconds
09:31 Owning the pause
10:05 Being different gets you noticed
10:25 Channeling Don Draper from Mad Men
11:20 The importance of rehearsals
13:05 Three things you can do next week
13:26 Why should people listen to you?
14:16 Think about your “sexy secret”
15:59 Find out more about Peter

More about Peter

Twitter: @HopwoodMedia
LinkedIn: Peter Hopwood

Show Transcript

Intro: 00:03 Welcome to the Actionable Futurist podcast, a bi-weekly show all about the near term future with practical advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question “what’s the future of …?” with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international Keynote Speaker and The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill.

Andrew Grill: 00:29 Welcome to episode seven of the Actionable Futurist Podcast. Today’s guests is Peter Hopwood, a communications and presence coach, public speaking and pitch trainer and conference host. In the first episode of the podcast series, we spoke with Martin Brooks, the impacttologist about the future of communication and presenting with impact. In today’s chat with Peter, we’re going to expand on this theme as he works with a large range of startups and corporates to get them pitch ready. Peter, welcome to the show.

Peter Hopwood: 00:56 Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be on this podcast.

Andrew Grill: 01:00 Fantastic. We first met in May, 2016 actually at an event where you were coaching startups. Then you’re the MC at the University of Zagreb’s Leap Summit where I delivered a keynote to a thousand eager students. Funny thing happened – I don’t think I shared this with you. After your event, before the Leap Summit. I was leaving in the lift and there was a founder of one of the startups in the lift and so I cheekily said, what’s your lift pitch? And he completely floundered and I said, you blown it buddy. We had four floors for you to pitch me your idea, and it was kind of ironic, he obviously wasn’t listening to your session upstairs.

Peter Hopwood: 01:33 Interesting. That’s actually something that a lot of people are not really ready to share. They’ve got everything else kind of figured out. They ready, they feel as if they’re ready to stand on that stage and share what they have to do to a lot of people. But on this day-to-day basis where we have to get people interested or curious about what we do to keep that conversation going one to one, a lot of us fail on that and that’s something that I help people to do, I’m sure you are sharing your elevator pitch all the time with the people that you meet. So it’s one, it’s like two sentences, that means so much just to get people to start to like you start to be curious about what you’re doing and it can actually be make or break because I’m sure after that elevator lift, that that elevator journey you had, your impression … what was your impression of that person you were talking to after you got out of the lift?

Andrew Grill: 02:30 Missed opportunity.

Peter Hopwood: 02:33 Exactly. I imagine maybe he had a good service, good product. Maybe it was a w it could become a winner, but he missed opportunity and failed unfortunately, just by not sharing two sentences that could have already started a conversation to move forward.

Andrew Grill: 02:57 You know, there’s one simple thing that do, or two things actually at events, whenever I put my name and my company on the badge, I put the, my title is Futurist Keynote speaker. And I say I work at the Actionable Futurist. The other thing I do is I put the badge as high as possible on my lapel or shirt, so it’s easy to see and people see, oh, Actionable Futurist, what’s that? And without me saying, “ask me what I do” it invites a conversation because they become curious. So think about your title. If your title says CEO on your badge, I know what a CEO does. Make it different, make it interesting and make it stand out from that very first time they lock eyes on your badge.

Peter Hopwood: 03:34 Absolutely. Business is all about lots of people doing lots of things and we have to stand out. So if we can stand out by using, having a title that that creates curiosity, that works. If we can stand out by maybe for example what we’re wearing something slightly different, not too flamboyant not too elaborate, but something a little bit different, maybe a different color … It gets people curious and maybe that starts a conversation. Anything that will start a conversation or curiosity, can then help you break the ice and then move forward.

Andrew Grill: 04:10 A bit more about what you do. You help get companies “pitch ready”. So what are the most common mistakes and what can they avoid when they prepare to present anywhere?

Peter Hopwood: 04:19 Okay. I mean the first thing, and it’s connected to what I’ve just been speaking about is your audience and when you share your idea, share your product for you, a product or service that you’ve been working on, an idea you’ve been, you know lots of sweat and tears, lots of time, probably lots of money as well, lots of energy. For you it means a lot. But for the person listening to what you have to say, it’s the first time they are listening to what you what you’re sharing and it doesn’t bring value if it doesn’t strike a chord or if it isn’t something that they would care about. They really don’t care. So it’s really trying to get your message across and bringing value and getting people to listen to you, which is the key thing at the beginning because your first 30 seconds, even less of a talk of a pitch of a presentation of anything really where you have to share a message in front of people is so crucial. That’s the time where people are judging you, they’re deciding whether they want to keep on listening, they’re deciding whether they would kind of trust you in a way. So that first under a minute where you’re sharing value where you have to share value is something that a lot of startups, and a lot of people sharing their presentations don’t really understand at the beginning don’t really gets it because that’s really the make or break part of the presentation or pitch.

Andrew Grill: 05:51 So without naming names, what’s the worst pitch you’ve ever seen?

Peter Hopwood: 05:54 I’m not going to outline one specific pitch, but some of the things that we see, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot as well, is the energy, is the passion. And when I say energy and passion, I’m not talking about someone coming on stage and really, you know, jumping up and down, smiling, really feeling on top of the world, nothing like that. It’s just showing that you care about what you’re talking about. So many people don’t do that. So many people don’t give us an impression or give us a feeling that they really into it. They’re really caring about what they’re sharing about their products. That comes through different things, it comes through the voice. It comes through clearly the nerves and anxiety, when that raises up that actually is a barrier as well. So we hear different things in the voice.

Peter Hopwood: 06:48 We hear the croaky, dry throat voice as well. So it’s those things there, often stop us from really showing our passion. The thing is before they go on stage, they really have to think about again, what kind of energy do they want? What is the energy sum, what is the style they want. What is the tone you want to be sharing? As soon as you start thinking about that and then you start feeling how you want to share your message, you actually in your brain, it’s funny now if you started, sort of played out in your head and then going on stage and then you can start to share that. So without thinking about it, it’s not going happen. If you come out with a little bit of energy, a little bit of passion, a little bit of, well quite a lot of focus, I would say.

Peter Hopwood: 07:39 People will start to listen to you. People will want to listen to you. If you don’t have that, why on earth should anybody listen to you?

Andrew Grill: 07:47 What can people do to get their nerves under control before that big presentation or pitch?

Peter Hopwood: 07:52 In terms of the anxiety, in terms of reducing anxiety, there two kind of clear areas. It’s the anxiety just before you go on. Just before you go on, just before you step on stage, that anxiety is often quite high. So that’s one area. The other area is way, way, way before. So thinking about it now, let’s say its in a couple of months, you’re already thinking a little bit of anxiety is hitting you because you’re already thinking about the anxiety just before you go on. So there’s two different areas. The first one, just before you go on stage, it’s actually getting your body ready. It’s getting your mind ready, really feeling like you’re going to share value, so mimicking your body, which mimics someone that is calm, you then start become calmer. What do you do just before you go onstage?

Andrew Grill: 08:47 I always work out what my first 90 seconds and my last 90 seconds will be and I want to nail that and I actually often I play video or do something where I can just reflect while the video’s playing and I kind of say, right, that’s the 90 seconds away. We’re off and running and I look at the audience and I know that I’ve delivered that first 90 seconds and that helps center me because I know exactly what I’m going to say the words. One thing I had to correct as a speaker though I used to be so excited on stage, I would speak really quickly and I speak quickly generally and so what I did, looking back at my videos, I could see this was distracting from the message, so I learned the art … of the pause, and it just slows me down and it means I can deliver the message that has more impact. What are your top tips to own the pause?

Peter Hopwood: 09:34 I’m so glad we’re speaking about pauses. I am a big fan of pausing because there are so many benefits of pausing. So first of all, as a fast speaker, when you start to slow down automatically whether you’ve realised it it not, what happens with your voice? It actually starts to get lower.

Andrew Grill: 09:59 If you’re in a boardroom situation or you’re trying to pitch to a client or do a presentation, being different can help. I’ll give you another example. I presented when I was at IBM to the UK Government. It was a cross agency group, about 30 different people from different departments, and we did a bunch of rehearsals and I’m going to ask you about rehearsals in a minute. I think we did four rehearsals, and the first time the IBM team got together I said, look, I’m new to IBM, I’m ex-startup. I’m going to try something a bit different. And I, channeled my inner Don Draper from Mad Men. Don Draper, when he pitches ideas and many advertising companies do, they use easels and they flip them over and they explain how the creative will work. And so I wanted to explain about this 100 year old company that had been collaborating for a while and they had saved money.

Andrew Grill: 10:43 So I used four easels and I basically flipped the easels around. The last easel had the IBM logo. Unfortunately, the other IBMers that followed me kind of threw their hands up in the air, how do we follow that? For six months afterwards, all they talked about was the guy with the easels. That’s what they remembered because it was different, and it was a huge risk. And to the credit of the person who owned that meeting at IBM, they said, it just sounds so crazy, we might let you do it. It then led to a bunch of meetings and out of that particular meeting, I know that it led to an $8 or $10 million consulting engagement because we were different. So being a little bit quirky and being memorable can actually get you noticed and get you the business.

Andrew Grill: 11:19 Just on rehearsals though, I rehearse everything I do, not just the first & last 90 seconds, I rehearse, the tech and everything else. No matter what you’re pitching or presenting or where you are. How important is rehearsal?

Peter Hopwood: 11:31 Oh, absolutely. Really very important indeed. Rehearsal again, it helps us to remember things better. It helps us to be more confident. So the thing is when we’re practicing, everything about what we’re doing actually sends messages in our brains, creates a program in our heads. And then so when we’re about do it again, when the pressure’s on, if we’ve already done it many times before, clearly we’re feeling that little bit more confident as well. And I think something that I, that I see far too often and I’m sure you do meeting different keynote speakers at different conferences. I hear so many in conversations I have with the speakers and the impression I get as well is that they haven’t really spent too much time practicing or rehearsing or polishing what they’re about to say.

Peter Hopwood: 12:25 We can tell so much by body language, we can tell so much by the feeling, and if you haven’t prepared and you go out on that stage and you think you can do it because you’ve done it many times before, what you share on that stage will be quite different from, let’s say you’ve practiced it, you’ve done it many times before, but you’ve also practiced it a lot, you’ve rehearsed, you’re trying something new, stepping out of your comfort zone, risking something, doing something maybe that you haven’t done before, the impression that will give is quite different.

Andrew Grill: 13:02 What I do on the podcast, because this is the Actionable Futurist Podcast, I’ve got to ask you some practical tips and tricks. So what are three things listeners can do next week to improve their chances of winning a pitch? Okay.

Peter Hopwood: 13:17 So as I’ve already mentioned before about thinking about the value, so think to yourself, you know, what is it? Why should people listen to you? So if you start to think about what is it you’re going to share, why should someone keep listening to you? Because no one cares. No one really cares about who you are, what you’re doing, even your products or service until there’s actually a connection about what you’re sharing.

Peter Hopwood: 13:49 So think clearly about that. And within that first 30 seconds, let them know somehow why they’re there, why should they listen to you? But that moment as you step out, that is just as important. Because even before you’ve said anything, you’re looking at your audience. You’ve got almost like a kind of smile on your face. Something that I say to a lot of my clients is think about having a “sexy secret”. So if you’ve got this, think about a sexy secret. Don’t share that sexy secret. You can if you wish to, but I wouldn’t recommend it. But just thinking about that, when somebody looks at you and you’ve got this kind of sexy secret or secret and funny secret that’s on your mind, your facial expression, will show that. Your facial expression shows someone who’s got something they want to share, something cool, something good, but they don’t know yet.

Peter Hopwood: 14:48 And the last thing I would say is, again, think about your, your gestures. This is something that I like to use as an MC, I’ve seen you like to use gestures as well on stage so that when we move our hands, when we move our arms connected to what we’re saying, we actually, funny enough, we sound better.

Peter Hopwood: 15:11 Three things, gestures help you sound better and give you that, that more energy as well. Going out on stage and looking at your audience before you’ve even started speaking always with a sexy secret on your mind. And the last thing, thinking about value, thinking about, you know, why on earth should anybody listen to you? Once you’ve nailed that, once you know why, then you can let them know and once they know, they’ll start to be interested in it. If they don’t know any of this, there’s there’s no reason for them to listen to you as a speaker, Keynote Speaker pitcher, start-up or even MC and the job that I do as well.

Andrew Grill: 15:53 Peter, absolutely practical tips. How can people find out more about you and your work?

Peter Hopwood: 15:59 I use linkedin a lot. I use that to post articles and ideas and pitching tips and things I do as well across the world and at different conferences and I’m sure we’ll meet again at a conference soon as well. So go to Linkedin “Peter Hopwood” you’ll find me there also Twitter @HopwoodMedia is my Twitter feed. Those are the two main areas if you want to connect, want to reach out, have a chat if you think I can help or you think we can help each other just reach out and I’d love to have chat with you.

Andrew Grill: 16:32 Peter, thank you so much for your time. I’ll see you on stage again soon.

Peter Hopwood: 16:35 Looking forward to it. Take care.

Outro: 16:42 Thank you for listening to the Actionable Futurist podcast. You can find all of our previous shows at and if you like what you’ve heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and c-suite workshops at Until next time, this has been the Actionable Futurist podcast.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]