Preparing for the Global Landscapes Forum’s youth session: What is ‘pitching’?

This article posts during GLF 2014. See in English | Espanol
Photo by Tsahi Levent-Levi
Photo by Tsahi Levent-Levi

By Abby Waldorf, Communications and Engagement Officer at the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

You’re sitting in a conference session with your hand raised high, waiting to make a comment on the new policy proposed. Time is running short, so you know you will have to make your point quickly. How can you most effectively communicate your comment?

The art of presenting your ideas, action points or recommendations to an audience in a simple way within a short amount of time is known as “pitching”. It’s an important skill to have – if you can’t explain your opinion, your recommendation or your work to an important audience then how are you going to make any difference?

During the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum’s youth masterclass (5th December), we will focus on how you can prepare and deliver a ‘pitch’ to reach specific target audiences. These skills will then be applied during the youth session (6th December) where youth will deliver recommendations for the GLF/COP20 conference to a panel of experts who will be providing feedback on the ideas. This panel of experts is called the “dragons’ den”, loosely based on a very popular TV series about entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to a group of investors.

Here are 5 tips for delivering a good pitch (we will develop these in the masterclass sessions):

1. Know your audience

Before presenting an idea, message or recommendation to someone, put yourself in their shoes.  Do some research. Know who you are talking to. Know their priorities. Ask yourself, why should this person/group care about what you’re saying? Spell out exactly why your audience should care about what you’re saying.

For example: if you’re addressing a room full of politicians, avoid using technical language. Politicians think in election cycles so don’t talk about issues in 2050.  They also care about their constituents; so instead of talking about the environmental benefits of climate-smart agriculture, think about how this will improve economic growth or improve food security and income for X number of people, etc.  This is the type of way you should be thinking when you address an audience.  Know them.

2. Put a story behind your facts

What’s the best way to grab someone’s interest? Get personal.

If you talk about the 2 billion smallholder farmers that need improved access to resources, you’re likely to lose the interest of certain audiences immediately. 2 billion people? How can your audience possibly solve the issues of 2 billion people?

Take your issue down to the ground and then tie it into the bigger picture. Build a story around your idea or message or recommendation. Talk about a specific person or family affected by the issue at hand. Bring your audience through the storyline to arrive at your recommendation. If you’re talking to Peru’s Minister of Health, find out what interests him/her and draw upon these interests in your story.

3. Engage your audience

Make your point interactive. Ask your audience a question. Keep eye contact, or don’t. Avoid fidgeting. If you see their eyes droop, pull them back in with a bold statement, interesting fact or another question!

4. Know your ‘ask’

Be perfectly clear about what you’re asking for. Do you want a policy to change? An idea incorporated into a document? A raise?

Spell it out exactly what you want, how to get there, and most importantly – why. Support your ‘ask’ with facts and numbers.

5. Be prepared to sustain engagement

If your pitch is successful, that means you’ve gotten your foot in the door. The best response to a pitch is, “I’m interested, tell me more.”

Or perhaps your pitch is successful because you’ve engaged with your target audience throughout your work, project, or research and you’re making a final ‘pitch’ for implementation or uptake.  Creating change, implementing ideas, and pitching successful recommendations is a process not to be overlooked.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some helpful resources:

Communicators get real practice in impacting policymakers

Policy pitching to the dragon’s den

VIDEO: The Art of the Elevator Pitch

VIDEO: How to pitch anything in 15 seconds

Has this inspired you to perfect your pitching skills? Apply to be one of our 4 pitchers at the youth session on 6 December in Lima, Peru by visiting

Applications for youth session masterclasses, where you will learn how to develop a pitch and practise it in front of a small audience, will open in late September. Check for more information.