As reported by Wall Street Oasis and NBC News, between 32% and 46% of first-through-third-year bankers seek mental health counseling, oftentimes coping with 17-hour days and 80-hour workweeks. No one’s complaining about the money, but the brain drain is legit, and there are fewer places where that anxiety manifests more strongly than before and during the pitch meeting.
Pitch meeting anxiety is real, but so is your ability to head it off before it happens, and work it out of your system when it rears its head in the room. Wanna know how to get over presentation anxiety? Clear your mind, warm up that chamomile tea, exhale tension, and inhale our seven best stress-reducing tips.
Visualize the Process
Pitching is performance. Whether you’ve got the dramatic chops of Daniel Day-Lewis or Tommy Wiseau, the sooner you make peace with that, the sooner you can get to working out pitch meeting hangups. And one way to do that is through the simple process of visualization.
Before you get into the conference room, visualize every step of your pitch presentation, from your market overview to your transaction strategy, intro, to appendix. Enter your mind palace and watch yourself deliver the pitch exactly how you’d do it in a movie. Allow that exercise to build your sense of comfort and control.
Meeting anxiety thrives on the unknown, so don’t just try to include some hypotheticals in your visualization exercise — cook up solutions to those snafus that you can deploy on the fly. You know exactly the kind of questions the managing director has been asking since before you were born, so anticipate them and have a few answers queued. Keep a backup of your pitch deck pulled up on your phone (CapLinked totally supports mobile access and Powerpoint files, if you wanna stash your pitch on your VDR) in case of tech hiccups.
Embrace the Three Changes
The concept of the pitch isn’t exclusive to IB, and pitch meeting anxiety definitely isn’t either. Creatives know a thing or two about the art and anxiousness of the pitch, and Writer’s Digest reminds us of three time-tested tactics that can cut through choppy mental and emotional waters:
- Change your behavior in the days leading up to the pitch. Practice solo, practice in front of people, and solicit feedback to make the kind of meaningful tweaks that’ll make you feel a lot more comfy on the day.
- Change your emotions just before the pitch by using techniques such as meditation or progressive relaxation skills to change emotions like fear and anxiousness into a sense of pitching peace.
- Change your thoughts — especially the invasive ones. Practice shifting negative thoughts to grounding, positive ones mid-pitch – change “the first-year analyst keeps checking his phone because he’s bored out of his mind” into “he keeps checking his phone because he’s always been addicted to Twitter drama,” for instance.
Involve the Room
Wondering how to get over presentation anxiety? Take the load off yourself.
We’re not recommending that you cheese up your pitch with, like, concert callouts or trust falls or anything, but some basic interactivity can help release the personal pressure valve while boosting engagement as a bonus. Trying to talk up tech? Ask the room what NVDA’s all-time high was before you reveal it. Pitch softball questions to prop up your point, wake up the room, and transfer tension outward rather than keeping it all cooped up.
Go in Warm
Speaking of actionable behavior that can change stuff for the better, a simple warm-up just before you hit that first slide can physically shake tension out of the body. We recommend a seven-point public speaking warm-up routine from the University of Maryland that includes deep breathing, vocal drills, full-body stretches, and a few facial exercises to get you feeling loose.
Bulge n’ Bracket
In IB and in your day-to-day, things like stability, routine, and predictability can be serious anxiety-busters. And that’s why it sometimes pays to construct your pitch with a time-tested, old-school outline such as the bulge and bracket method.
B&B pitches always include five bullet points; memorize these points and order them as such in your pitch to lend yourself a repeatable, guiding North Star to get you back on track should things go off course:
- Company overview
- Key drivers of revenue and profitability
- Valuations and ratings
Wrap on Realism AND Positivity
Selling harder than the ShamWow guy isn’t going to ease your pitch meeting anxiety, and it won’t likely impress your partners, either. While it’s important to wind down your pitch by making the risks just as clear as the opportunities, it’s equally crucial to end on a note of positivity – and don’t make it hollow.
Fill that sense of promise with description and strengthen it with hard stats and research. Sell yourself on its strength, and lay out exactly the sort of positive change your pitch has the potential to generate. Feel the effect that fact-backed optimism is having on your audience? Take that feeling with you as you leave the room to help you come down slowly and gently rather than taking on a case of the post-pitch jitters.
Dan is a Dallas-based freelance writer and consultant specializing in tech, media analysis and lifestyle content. In his decade-plus experience, he’s been fortunate enough to work alongside finance-focused partners including Fortune, The Motley Fool, Bizfluent, Business.com, Chron.com and many more. You can find him on LinkedIn.
Writer’s Digest – 3 Ways to Manage Pitch Panic
University of Maryland – Seven-Minute Public Speaking Warm-Up
City Investment Training – How to Pitch a Stock in an Investment Banking Interview? Learn the Bulge Bracket Method!
M&A Community – Investment Banking Pitchbook: Types, Examples and Tips