Getting what you want: Pitching

Pitching – how you frame and communicate your need – is essential to getting what you want.  

I’ve been thinking about pitching for many years to support the entrepreneurs I work with win competitions, create partnerships and raise funding. Pitching skills help us get what we want beyond starting a new business or initiative. We pitch when we present ourselves for a job interview, market our product, tell our colleagues our new idea or try to get kids to clean their rooms!

There are many resources available that explain what to include for the content of the pitch. This may differ slightly depending on situation, but generally we need to be able to explain the value proposition, revenue model/incentive, team and relevant capabilities and high-level plan of action.

However, when listening to pitches, I’m often reminded of Maya Angelous’ quote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Below are some of the less tangible things I’ve learnt about successful pitching:

Pitching starts from first contact – any interaction you have whether on phone, email or written document should all be seen as part of your pitch and create a coherent and compelling narrative. Everything you do builds (or takes away from) credibility and connection. A rude or badly thought-through email before the pitch can create a poor impression. Ask yourself what story you are telling through each interaction and adjust if necessary.

Prepare for the moment you walk into the room – be sure to present your best self before you start. How are you holding yourself? What are you wearing?  What is your non-verbal communication? How are you standing? You can only create one first impression… someone who slopes into the room looking hung-over and wearing only one shoe, may not get the desired response! What first impression do you want to create?

Check in with yourself – know why you want this and be clear which part of your psyche is motivating you. Projects and ideas motivated by ego and anger may lose momentum. Those by a deep connection to the outcome or a curiosity about self are generally easier to sustain.  People support people and likeability is a huge, sometimes unconscious, part of any assessment. Be authentic. Why am I doing this and what do I need to do to bring my best self to it?

Be prepared – to explain your project or idea succinctly against any criteria set out. Make sure your ‘ask’ is clearly articulated. I find the business model canvas or other similar tools useful to ensure I have thought through all aspects of a proposition. Trying different pitch types e.g. pitching using the Pixar style or for a TED talk are useful preparation. Practice both words and gestures. Create a prototype to test/prove the concept. Am I ready for anything?

Know your protagonist – who is this idea benefitting? Do they care? What do they have to say about it? An idea needs to centre on an ‘end-user’, ‘beneficiary’ or ‘customer’. There are lots of great design thinking tools that allow you to think through any idea from the protagonists’ viewpoint. This is critical to the success of any idea. Who is this idea for and why do they care?

Check in with your audience – are they ‘getting it’? Should you pause to connect with them? Are you speaking ‘their language’ (this may be by competence e.g. finance or marketing, their orientation e.g. expressive, quiet or literally cockney, northern, etc.). Have you identified and clearly communicated what’s in it for them? Can you get them to interact with and thereby connect with the idea? A good way to do this is to ask a question e.g. “How many of you travelled here by bus this morning?” Am I connecting with my audience?

Be self-aware – check if you need to flex your style i.e. to minimise or maximise personal attributes e.g. hand gestures, enthusiasm, aggression, quiet confidence, etc. Check your confidence level – there is something different about saying ‘we are trying to’ vs ‘we will’. Are you over-using ‘filler’ words such as “some”, “like”?  These are indicators of a lack of confidence, conviction or preparation. How am I being in this moment?

Bring the idea to life – use graphs, stories, prototypes, story boards, lego and movies to help explain your idea. I’ve seen people bring cooking to a pitch for a new restaurant, create a future magazine cover for a social project and design a prototype of a new wind turbine with toilet rolls to explain their concepts.  Creating an experience is very powerful. Make sure it adds to your idea not distracts from the pitch. Can I explain my idea in a creative way?

Keep it simple – know what your ‘big idea’ is and be able to explain it in a single sentence. It might be helpful to list our context, complication, solution beforehand in order to be clear on the problem it solves and the value it adds. Don’t have more than 3 points in your pitch. Be clear on your 3-5 key messages and ensure these are communicated. Test your pitch on unusual suspects – your kids or the pizza delivery man. This will force you to simplify your message and check your language. What is the one key takeaway for my audience?

Don’t be afraid of questions – you ‘own’ the conversation. Any answer is a good one if delivered with authenticity, humility and openness. The delivery is often more important than the content. If you don’t know the answer – be honest – but come up with a plan to get the answer. Typical questions pick up on risks, stakeholders, customer needs, capabilities and funding. Can I stay calm and connected to my belief in this idea no matter what?

Creating a successful pitch is as much about your personal preparedness and mindset as it is about your revenue model (we rarely believe your ‘hockey stick revenue curve’, anyway!). Preparation is all about you – stay true to yourself and authentic in your communication.

And best of luck!


If you have a world-changing idea that needs some help – please contact me on Through the Upstart programme and League of Intrapreneurs we work with intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to shape and scale social innovation. More information about the kinds of businesses we work with and things we do can be found here: Scaling disruption


If you are an innovator working to create positive social change from within your organisation – you may be an ‘intrapreneur’. We would like to invite you to join fellow Intrapreneurs from companies including: Barclays, Interface, M&S, BMW and Unilever to be inspired, build skills and meet exceptional people. On the 3 May, as part of a regular event series, the League of Intrapreneurs will be holding a session on Leadership for Systems Change. If you feel this might be a good event for you to attend, please see information below and apply for membership at or get in touch with me at 

“Collaboration is the Human Face of Systems Thinking.” – Peter Senge

Companies today are facing complex, external challenges, many of which cannot effectively be tackled by one institution or even one sector in isolation. Issues such as climate change, water scarcity and youth unemployment, for example, are all systems-level challenges, which require radical collaboration across a host of likely and perhaps unlikely allies.

Consider Café Direct – The UK’s first and largest Fairtrade drinks brand – which was founded through a collaboration between Oxfam, Traidcraft, Equal Exchange Trading and Twin Trading as a response to the 1989 global collapse in coffee prices. Café Direct since revolutionized the Fairtrade market by launching the first mainstream coffee brand catalyzing a shift in the global system of coffee production and distribution.

Or take sustainable materials as another example. Though Nike is one of the most iconic brands on the planet, their ability to influence the footwear manufacturing supply chain to utilize more sustainable materials was limited. So, they teamed up with a diverse group of manufacturers and retailers to create the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Together – they have the ability to shift the system in a way that no single company could.

The ability to shift systems requires new ways of seeing the world as well as working with others – it requires systems leadership.

Join us for an inspiring evening with guest speakers:

Richard Evans, Chairman, Impact Hub Global 

Kresse Wesling, Elvis and Kresse 

Together, with fellow intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and change agents, we’ll explore questions such as:

+ Systems feel so big and complex? How can I clarify my own understanding of systems change?

+ What role can I, my team and/or institution play in addressing systems change?

+ What are the capabilities required for effectively tackling systems change?

+ What tools and resources are available to help me deepen my capacity for systems change + leadership?

League of Intrapreneurs’ events are intimate, interactive and inspiring gatherings of seasoned and emerging intrapreneurs. We meet each month in different locations across London, hear from thought provoking speakers and have lively and enriching discussions in small groups. This is not a typical networking event. Expect to have your passions nurtured and your mind expanded, all whilst deepening friendships with other London-based impact intrapreneurs.

As a non-profit, we operate on a pay as you feel basis, with a recommended donation of £25.

To apply to join us or to learn more about membership, get in touch at

With many thanks to our event sponsor, SABMiller.

WHEN: Tuesday, 3 May 2016 from 17:30 to 21:00

What is the True Cost?

Etrue costvent: Private film screening – Tuesday, 22 March 2016 from 19:30  at Curzon Victoria

It was the little boy who struggled to walk that I asked about. We were on an Ashram in South India – a sanctuary run by Nobel Prizewinner Kailesh Satyarthi to support children return from slavery back to healthy lives. A long way from the glamour and glitz of seasonal fashion.

Kailesh didn’t look at me to respond. He said to the ground ‘the child was working cross legged on the ground from such a young age, for such long hours, that his bones haven’t developed properly’. The little boy looked up with a bright smile and intelligent eyes and hobbled back to his position as catcher behind the cricket wickets.

The True Cost is a global documentary that explores the fashion industry around the world and examines how products are made. It highlights those who are forgotten about throughout the process. Although great strides have been made to make fashion more responsible, there remain overwhelming problems on care of the environment and clear violations of the most basic human rights.

This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?

Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.

Kailash Satyarthi is an Indian children’s rights and education advocate and was the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in his efforts against child labour. He has acted to protect the rights of more than 83,000 children and has created organisations like The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) and the Global March (against child labour).

If you are curious about the potential for the fashion industry to improve – or even to have a restorative impact on the communities it touches. If you are wondering how your clothes are made. If you want to support a very good cause – please do join us or this private screening. Tickets are available here: The True Cost

If you can’t make it but would like to host your own screening, please do get in touch.

New Event: East-london ‘net-walk’ on pioneering disruption

Simon Cole knows London. Both the places and the stories that make it come alive and can inspire us in our work and personal lives. He has offered to host a walking tour of Hackney for 6heads and Greenskythinking. We think this is the start of a series of ‘net-walks’ – opportunities to walk and connect with like minded people. Its on 28th October. Places are limited. You can (and really should!) sign up here: Netwalk on pioneering disruption

Below, he tells us more: 


If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present” – it could be the mission statement of a modern day innovatorHackney Timber Tourin East London, the nearest that we have to Silicon Valley. Buts it’s a quote from a Hackney religious radical of the 1800s. There is a rich tradition in this part of the global city of disruptors rocking the mainstream boat to address the problems they see around them.

Hackney Tours uses walks to explore the past to reframe the present and anticipate the future; we’re tapping into that on a forthcoming walk that channels the best of this powerful desire for positive change by showcasing examples of it happening around us today.

Using inspirational characters from the past, we discover how today’s pioneers in Dalston are following in great footsteps. In Hackney we’re standing on the shoulders of giants, whether they be inventors or reformers or activitists. Many of the things we take for granted today were hard won by people who had the moral courage to stand up and risk ridicule, or worse.

6 Heads is about “Shaking things up” and it’s what Hackney personalities have been doing in various forms since the 1600s. From the groundbreaking demand for gender equality by Mary Wollstonecraft to the direct action soup kitchens of the Salvation Army, Hackney changemakers have challenged the conventional and shaped the way we live and think today.

Some of you on this experience walk, which also serves as a space to create connections and find affirmation, may be the contemporary equivalent of those who broke paradigms with new ideas or new methods. We’ll see some great projects that seek to break some unhealthy planetary patterns that need renegotiation. So come and see some good stuff, connect with how good it feels to be part of positive change. And see what Hackney innovators are doing for the field of sustainability and how they’re reinvigorating notions of community in the 21st Century city.

*Hackney Tours*
*”Best Walking Tours in London’ recommended by
*Recommended by Trip Advisor*

Moral courage


I’m on my way to Atlanta, Georgia to work for a company that that started a radical sustainability journey more than 20 years ago when it’s CEO, against accepted commercial norms, declared that he could no longer do business that destroyed the planet. He set out a moral leadership agenda to transform industry.

I’m watching Selma, the story of Martin Luther Kings search for dignity, for all – also in Georgia. An excellent film that captures his steadfast courage in the face of opposition that felt safeguarded by social norms – sheltered by ‘this is just the way things are around here’.

Although their focus, impact and journeys are very different, I’m deeply inspired by the moral courage of both men. They demonstrated a different way and, through articulating clear visions, led transformative action toward a better world.

I’m reflecting that –

One person with a commitment to an agenda…

View original post 388 more words


David Willans, legendary marketeer and friend , works with purposeful brands and organisations to drive growth. This makes him extremely well-placed to examine what is meant by ‘purpose’.

———————————————————————————————-Purpose (1)

Purpose is all the rage, with a new book out on it every month it seems. I’m a big fan of Purpose, because it’s all about direction and motivation to make things better. It’s the Why that keeps you motivated, attracting people who believe in your cause.

Reading between the many lines that have been written about it, there’s a dangerous assumption emerging. The assumption seems to be that just having a Purpose will make a business relevant and successful. There’s very little discussion of how to live your purpose once you have it.

If purpose is the Why, what we’re missing is the How.

Simon Sineck, the guy who coined the Why says the How are an organisations values – the beliefs and principles held collectively that guide behaviour. I agree and so does Ron Disney, nephew of Walt and one time Disney CEO. He said ‘It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.’

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, who wrote the brilliant Built to Last and Good to Great define values as being ‘inherent and sacrosanct; they can never be compromised, either for convenience or short-term economic gain’.

Unfortunately, when you mention values in a business context most minds jump straight to a set of generic and meaningless words on a meeting room wall. It’s a sad comment on today’s state of affairs but one that’s reflective of the truth. A study by Boston Research Groupwith thousands of Americans from every rung of the corporate ladder, found only 3% described their company’s values as a form of “self-governance.” 43% said their company’s culture was a form of command-and-control and 54% said it was top-down leadership with lots of carrots and sticks. These later two groups explain why big firms have such a problem with innovation, because they are all based on the assumption that the people at the top know best. With change coming from all angles no leadership team can ever be that good. If they were there’s no way they can effectively translate their visions into actions fast enough if the people executing by and large don’t care.

Proper, fit for purpose values have a few things in common, they are:

  • Articulated in the language of the business, they aren’t a standardised set of words that could belong to anyone.
  • Used to make decisions on a daily basis, they are grounded in the truth of today’s behaviour but also drive the standard of work and behaviour for tomorrow.
  • Modelled by everyone in the business, especially the leaders because if not they are simply a sign of insincerity and a source of lost productivity.

Finding and articulating them lies in seeing the full cultural landscape of the organisation to identify the golden threads that run through it. These threads show up again and again in the stories told, the behaviours prized and the successes earned. When they aren’t there you’ll find stories of failure, ill-feeling and poor performance.

Let’s hope the focus on purpose will put values in proper perspective and force those with words like ‘integrity, trust, responsibility’ on meeting room walls to have a rethink.


purposeIf you like what David had to say and want to see if he is as good looking as he is smart – you can check him out here:

If you want to enter the discussion, you can send your blog/thoughts/praise/disdain to

Extra Strong Mints: Shared Enterprise at Grant Thornton… At the start of a journey. Guest Blog by Norman Pickavance


6Heads have been really lucky this week. We were treated to a strategy session on purpose by Norman Pickavance and Charles Wookey from the Blueprint for Better Business. There is another blog on the way to you from what came out of that evening and we are very excited about that too.

However that will have to be a post for next week as this blog is about shared enterprise and we are already a few days late for shared ownership day …

In the sustainability world many of us wear different ‘hats’ and I am doubly lucky because the hat I wear daily is the one I wear to work with Norman at Grant Thornton where we are embarking upon a journey of Shared Enterprise, through the vision of our newly elected CEO Sacha Romanovitch.

We are thrilled to bits that Norman has written us a guest blog (the…

View original post 1,469 more words

Scaling disruption – congratulations Clotho!

Last month we published a blog on scaling disruption. It focused on entrepreneurs that are redesigning systems to support a more sustainable future. We mentioned new Upstart Startup Clotho London that has created an aspirational second-hand clothing marketplace, saving C02, water and – best of all – changing youth mindsets around fast fashion.

We’d like to congratulate them on winning two competitions in the past fortnight. First they won funding from and a place in the True Start Accelerator. Last Friday they won (tie first place) funding and support from the Mayor of London Low Carbon Entrepreneur Awards.

Below you can see them pitching their ideas to Dame Ellen McArthur – “How many times can you mention circular in two minutes?! ”


Do you have a world-changing idea?  For more information on Clotho and other Upstarts, please contact

Scaling disruption

There are multiple ways we can intervene in the current business system in order to support change toward better environmental and social outcomes. One of these ways is to scale small initiatives that have the potential to create significant change in the current ways business operates. This is particularly effective where these ‘disruptors’ also act as commercial demonstrators to traditional organisations and inspiration for other emergent entities by proving the case for alternative forms of business.

I have a portfolio of these ‘disruptors’ that I currently coach from seed stage until first significant funding. This means taking them through a structured programme of business development, drawing on IDEO, LEAN and my own start-up experience across multiple sectors and stages of new business building.  The programme is underpinned my three key principles: fail fast, engage early and rapidly build credibility. This means we work closely together to:

  • Identify and engage potential customers to establish and build the business toward meeting real needs,
  • Set-up of a series of experiments where the team can quickly configure and test different operating methodologies, and
  • Understand how the market operates, where the gaps are and which organisations could inform and, even better, certify the set-up.

This is underpinned by regular ‘pivoting’ as we reconfigure the business model to meet emerging needs and cost structures. It is supported by work around vision, team dynamics, business basics and fundraising.

Two oranisations in my portfolio are currently seeking an extension of their seed funding. They are:

Clotho London: The destination for sustainable fashion.

Set-up by two recent graduates from Imperial College (who worked together as Chemistry lab partners) this business aims to create a secondary market for good, used clothing. It is a simple technology platform built on the principle of clothes swapping. It provides young women with a more sustainable option for quality fashion choices. Clotho thereby works towards preventing new purchases of high-street brands and reducing the 350,000 tonnes of used clothing that goes to landfill in the UK every year. They currently operate collections at 3 UK Universities and are rapidly growing a loyal customer base. They are looking to raise investment to fund operational costs as they scale their service.

Vesco: Developing sustainable feed systems. (under-development)

Vesco has been set-up by four classmates from the Imperial College Environmental Technology MSc programme.  They are developing a sustainable ‘insect-based’ animal feed designed to mitigate the environmental and biodiversity impacts of contemporary soy and fishmeal-based feeds. They aim to harness the efficiency of insects in converting organic waste into high-quality nutrients and are running a number of experiments to rear  fly larvae on a variety of organic wastes. They are working closely alongside high-profile potential customers to co-develop product specifications and a unique, ‘circular’ offering and are in the process of organising trials for pilot products. Vesco is looking or funding to allow further development of the concept by paying a base wage to the team. 

Both these worthwhile organisations will effect change in the existing systems they operate within – clothing and food – through demonstrating initiative, possibility and trialing new business models.  Any funding or other suggestions to scale and support these worthwhile organisations would be appreciated.

Alternatively, if you are a young enterprise with a good idea towards a positive shared future or an investor/accelerator/incubator with disruptors in your funding portfolio  that need help in clarifying their business models towards delivering scalable impact –  please do get in touch.

For further information or to arrange a meeting, please fill in the form below:


Building a circular economy – are you clueless or clued up?

An invitation from Krina Amin from Ethical Corporation:

Business innovation is a top priority for large corporates in 2015. Making a circular economy a reality can help create more resource efficiencies and long term sustainable business growth.  Join Ethical Corporation’s 45-minute live debate this Thursday at 10am GMT. Hear how and where McCain Foods, Jaguar Land Rover and Royal BAM Group are evolving their business to create a circular economy and achieve greater resource efficiency.

Get clued up on Circular!

Sign up for free here: