Just before Jun Bei Liu stepped on stage at last year’s Sohn Hearts & Minds conference, she turned to her public speaking coach Jonathan Pease, and said, “I can’t do this.”
Liu was about to step on stage with a selfie stick, dressed as a duty-free shopper in head-to-toe luxury fashion brands like Gucci, Chanel, Bulgari, Hermès and Balmain, to name China Tourism Group Duty Free Corporation as her 2022 stock pick.
“Yeah, you can,” Pease told her, before she bounded on stage to deliver a knockout pitch.
Liu, lead portfolio manager at the $1.7 billion Tribeca Investment Partners, knows the stakes don’t come any higher than at the Sohn conference, which returns to the Sydney Opera House on Friday.
At the event, founded by Matthew Grounds, Gary Weiss and Guy Fowler in 2016 to raise millions for medical research, stock pickers have just eight minutes to pitch to the country’s best fund managers, bankers, investors and business media. They must explain how they have found an investment gem that the market has overlooked.
The founding creative director of the conference and author of the recent book Winning the Room, Pease personally trains each presenter to help win over the battle-weary crowd, who have heard it all before.
Here are Pease’s top tips for the perfect pitch.
Pease says you need a really strong start, especially to win over a hardened audience. In 2019, Liu emerged on stage to the children’s song Baby Shark, before revealing her stock pick as The a2 Milk Company.
“You want a really big take-off,” Pease says.
“When Liu stepped out in all her duty-free gear, it showed that obsession with duty-free in China and so you immediately got that.
“Make sure in the first minute you put the hook out there that people can understand and really buy into.”
Pease also remembers Nick Griffin at Munro Partners who in 2019 tipped the advertising platform TradeDesk.
“We came up with the Don Draper theme, so that was the song that played as he came on and then he went back to the theme throughout, and had Munro ads popping up during his pitch to demonstrate how it worked.”
Pease also remembers back to 2016 when Chicago small-cap specialist Leah Zell pitched BIM, Turkey’s answer to Aldi. “She stepped onto stage, paused and said, ‘Are you ready to take a magic carpet ride to Turkey with me?’ It was just, ‘wow, that’s interesting’.”
Pease says while you need a strong start, for this sort of audience, you also want to hold back revealing the actual stock pick to take the audience on a little whodunit story.
“Some of the best pitches we’ve had have been a really late reveal,” he says.
“It’s a very smart audience, they want to go on a bit of a discovery journey. The audience love when we drop little breadcrumbs on the way to reveal a stock.”
Pease says you want to rehearse your presentation or pitch and get it as tight as possible up until the night before, but then you should throw away your notes.
“If you’ve learnt it tight enough, when you present it loose, you actually grab onto things in your memory, you bring in your own personality and react to the audience live, which makes the presentation so much more engaging. It allows you to almost play with your content, rather than present it.”
The old adage that less is more is also critical.
“Try to have fewer slides with fewer words and actually say less,” he says. “That’s really tricky when you’re dealing with subject matter experts who know everything about the stock and have all the numbers, it’s obviously tempting to put all of that in.”
Liu agrees it can be a challenge to streamline the content.
“We invest every single day so there’s so much content. To slim it down into eight minutes and something that makes sense, it really needs clarity,” Liu tells BOSS.
Pease says most people already talk too fast and, under pressure, that speed only increases.
“Something we work on is how might we control the pace,” he says. “How we might design places to put in a pause, so we can really let points sink in, or draw attention to something you want people to think about or remember. Pausing is a lovely way to do that, it also creates drama and shows that you are in control.”
Liu says she has learnt that practice alone and natural charisma do not necessarily make you better, but that pitching is a real skill that can be learnt.
Pease, who says he was driven in his career by a fear of public speaking, agrees his clients are talented, but it is about getting the extra 5 per cent or more to make a real impact.
This article was originally posted by The Australian Financial Review here.
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