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3 PR Hacks to Conquer Stage Fright and Perfect Your Pitch

Elena Peneva, Pitch2Pitch, Networking Premium
Image credit: Elena Peneva, Networking Premium

Elena Peneva is an experienced PR professional. She has successfully created branding strategies and led 500+ PR campaigns, with over 10,000 clippings for more than 40 international companies across 10+ European markets. She has worked with some of the fastest-growing tech leaders in the EMEA region, consulted 50+ startups, and hosts Bulgarian startup competition in recent years—Pitch2Pitch.

The fear of public speaking is among humanity’s most common phobias—often greater than the fear of death. The joke that many people would rather die than go on stage is amusing but also somewhat true.

As we approach the finale of this season of the Pitch2Pitch Startup Competition, which I am hosting, I’ve observed many brave entrepreneurs battling their fears to pitch before a jury and an audience of 200-300 people for the first time.

Before the last episode and the big finals, I offer three strategies that have helped many of my clients overcome stage fright with minimal risk of a light heart attack.

Of course, these hacks complement the numerous rules, ideas, and tips on creating the perfect pitch that you can learn from mentors, investors, accelerators, and other consultants.


I. Hacking the Body


The philosophy of “Mind over body” has convinced us that mental control is paramount, but many people don’t realize that the opposite direction is just as effective.

If you are just starting to build mental resilience in media and stage performances, try conditioning the body before the mind. A few jumps and lunges can increase your heart rate and adrenaline, centering the brain by turning mental pressure into muscle pressure.

Then, lift your hands above your head for 30-60 seconds and put them on your waist in a proper power pose. Staying like this for two minutes is scientifically proven to increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, making you more dominant, focused, assertive, and confident. For more on this, check out this evergreen TED talk from a decade ago.


II. Hacking the Mind


There is a simple truth and it is that if you are terrified to go and speak on stage you are probably  thinking of yourself —how you look, how you appear, and what others think of you. Shift the focus and change your perspective. You are not important. In any room, 20% of people will love you, 20% will hate you, and the rest won’t even notice or remember you in a day.

Read more:  The Quantum Marketing Revolution: Navigating the 5th Paradigm as a Startup

Instead of worrying about yourself, think about the problem you are solving and the deep WHY behind your startup. This shift will create a different vibe for any pitch and subsequent conversation.


III. Hacking the Others


This technique is for those who are not afraid of a little rehearsal but are still moderately terrified of going on stage. Often, when asked to criticize or give feedback to pitching founders, people say, “Your movement distracted me; stop moving.” But this is the wrong advice. We are mesmerised by movement and action, especially during longer presentations.

This is why videos of people doing their makeup while telling a long story are successful and why many content creators speak while playing with a ball, walking, or cooking. We simply love this! However, if you want your words to be the center of attention and your actions to keep the audience’s eyes on you, you need a few key elements.

Ensure your pitch is automatic in your mind so that when you hack the audience’s attention, there is no risk of losing your focus. Whether showcasing a product, having models demonstrate something on stage, or doing some crazy moves, anything can work as long as it aligns with your brand and idea. By the way, I cannot remember a pitch on the competition stage that had an impressive demo and did not win at least 2-3 awards.


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