Perfecting the Pitch: An Interview with Pascal Heymann

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eLab Contributor

eLab Contributor

Bastian Behrmann is the eLab Berlin Location Manager and has been involved and working in the Berlin startup scene since 2016. He coaches and guides all of our participants while on the program as well as getting them connected to important founders and investors in the local startup ecosystem.

Pascal Heymann is an internationally distinguished speaker, storyteller and pitch trainer and has even been a judge at the “ Debating Matters Berlin Championship” in 2018 and 2019. Working in the heart of Europe’s start-up landscape, Pascal empowers young CEOs and business owners to confidently communicate their ideas, generate interest for innovative products and present with a WOW-factor! He helps entrepreneurs craft their own elevator pitch and makes sure they have various versions prepared for different audiences.

Pascal also recently published a step-by-step book with the help of eLab: The Elevator Pitch for Entrepreneurs and his clients include Philips, PlugAndPlay, and HelloFresh. He is also currently the residing pitch instructor at CIEE’s eLab entrepreneurship program.

Having looked into many pitch decks and listened to pitches of all kinds, he explains that the most common mistake when people start pitching is trying to save the world. The reason is that entrepreneurship is based on the concept of creating value and solving problems, to improve this weird thing that we call human existence. That’s part of what makes it so magical, but change doesn’t begin on a global scale, it begins with individuals and their lives. That’s what many entrepreneurs forget when pitching.

Pascals explains:

One of the most challenging parts of any pitch – and I see scientists who pitch for funding struggle with this too – is identifying a convincing problem-solution pair. Whatever your product is, it solves some type of problem. The difficult part is to identify and verbalize this problem. Especially if the time frame of the pitch doesn’t allow you to go into detail on every single aspect and feature of your product. Then you need to pick your favorite one(s) and make sure the problem you’re outlining at the start of the pitch is exactly what’s being solved by those features.

He concludes with a very practical example:

This is where many entrepreneurs are tempted to focus on the bigger picture, rather than on the actual customer and their needs. Yes, grinding up crickets and pressing them into a candy bar makes use of an easily farmed resource. But no, your cricket candy bar just isn’t going to solve world hunger or single-handedly save the environment. It’s nice that you have those larger issues in mind, but you still need to convince me that there exists a target customer willing to chew on crickets.

The objective of his sessions is to transfer the necessary skills needed to create impactful pitches for investors, partners, and customers. The way an idea, a product and a company are communicated to outside audiences can make or break the future success of a venture. 

As a pitch trainer, this is where I see my biggest value. Of course, I’ll teach you how to structure your ideas, tell engaging stories, effectively make use of language, and so on, but the first step is for me to ask you a bunch of seemingly stupid questions. A lot of stupid questions. Only that way can we identify which slice of information from your huge cake of expertise best transports the message in the limited time available. Then we apply the rhetorical magic.

Clearly addressing a customer pain point, explaining complex technologies in simple terms and laying out a clear business vision are just some of the factors that help build trust and curiosity in your audience. By the end of the sessions, Pascal makes sure that our participants are ready for the next step.

My goal is for others to experience that same comfort and passion for public speaking. No matter how unlikely it may seem to them now.

He understands the struggle of going up on stage and therefore always has the right attitude, but he used to feel like a fish out of water. Looking back on his relationship to public speaking he remembers:

It’s an unlikely love story. As a teenager, the idea of speaking to large groups of strangers was like Kryptonite to me — and my audiences agreed. I could hear a moan of despair go through the classroom whenever it was my turn to give a report. I sucked at it. Even my teachers blatantly told me so.

His honesty is comforting because it is nice to know that confident speaking is something one can learn with practice.

Pascal had his own motivation:

At university, I realized that this needed to change. If I ever wanted to shine on exam presentations or be an effective leader in student societies, it was crucial that I step up my public speaking game. So I joined Toastmasters, a world-wide public speaking organization that provides a safe space to practice your speaking abilities. I slowly learned how to write speeches, move audiences, speak off the cuff, moderate events and overcome my stage fright. That’s where I fell in love with public speaking. Luckily for me, the love appeared to be mutual. Five years ago, we agreed to move in together and now it’s an everyday part of my life.

And the love relationship between Pascal and public-speaking works very well. He’s been with eLab from the beginning and helps all participants with their pitches. He makes sure to be there on every demo day to support and help calm the participant’s nerves, by using special techniques such as his famous victory dance. Of course, next to the tools of speaking he is never tired to share what is most important while pitching to an audience. For Pascal, it is the ability to take a step back and view the topic from an outsider’s perspective.

You have spent months – or even years – digging your head into the topic, the market, the product, etc. You could quite literally speak for days about your company. And you probably even do. Now you only have 10, 5 or sometimes even just 1 minute to pitch your company/product to an audience that has never heard of, nor spared a single thought on it. That’s the big challenge.

When preparing your pitch, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Imagine knowing nothing about the topic and ask yourself, “What would I need to know in order to see the potential in this venture?” Because what may seem obvious to you as an expert is anything but obvious to us as an audience.

Having trained so many different clients from various fields, it is interesting to know why Pascals enjoys being eLab’s lead Pitch Master. In regards to what he likes most about coaching eLab students he answers:

Having done pitch training for several accelerators before, what stands out about eLab is the diversity in ideas and projects. Instead of limiting the cohorts to a specific type of industry, eLab fosters an environment where entrepreneurs are free to develop their ideas into all areas and directions. All you need is an idea and eLab will provide you with the necessary navigational equipment and expertise to take control of your own path.

What makes the work at eLab especially rewarding for me is the enthusiasm of the participants. Even though I haven’t attended the other seminars myself, I see the sparks of inspiration lit by the other trainers. The value I add is by empowering the participants to effectively communicate that spark, that passion and that pride for their products in a way that resonates with the world.

You can find more information about Pascal here. Together with eLab he also holds monthly evening workshops, so come and learn from the best!

Ready to perfect your pitch with the help of an eLab expert? Then check out our Programs page to find the best solution for your business needs.

If you want to learn more about our highly-qualified instructors and coaches, then check out our eLab Team page.

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