Don’t speak at one level, give me three!
04
FEBRUARY 2017
Give Me Three!
All great pitches communicate on three levels, a specific everyday level (low), a general level (middle) and a universal level (high).
Here’s how it works:

  1. Specific makes your pitch feel real and attainable, therefore believable
  2. General: suggests the benefits of the pitch have application elsewhere
  3. Universal: proposes your pitch has a ring of truth that goes beyond today and is a truth accepted by all

Here’s a contemporary example that I enjoy hearing when people are discussing the possibility of increasing social mobility by the imposition of higher inheritance tax, and objecting to the notion: “I save £2 everyday in my savings account so my 12 year old daughter can get a good education at university, I think she’ll be a medic. She will of course inherit my house too. Passing property down to your children is something lots of people do. There is nothing more natural than wanting to leave something for your children.”

Is it really natural to want your children to inherit this?
These three levels are very compelling, it is relatable (lots of people save for their children, and being a medic sounds admirable). It is true lots of people do this. And therefore yes, I can see it’s an instinctive sense we have, an inalienable right. I enjoy hearing this defence of low inheritance tax as it sounds so convincing and yet if we look at it with a long view the claim it’s ‘natural’ is highly questionable. For example, property values and ownership among the common man is a relatively contemporary phenomenon. Go back in time to pre-Second World War and if you had property usually this would only pass to one child (so the estate could be kept together, pragmatic but accordingly unnatural). The common man that had children put them to work the land, many were expected to die at a young age and family was required for survival, not any sense of a dynasty.
“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Mother Teresa
I’ve heard politicians, religious leaders, all kinds of people suggest that passing property to their children is instinct. And we can use this same approach with our pitching. Of the three levels the specific is the most important. In every pitch we must ensure we give one descriptive event or scene where you can paint a picture in real depth and detail. For example, I did not just ‘hit someone on a bike this morning on the way to work in my car’, ‘I was driving on my way to work when the person in front of me stopped all of a sudden, I stamped on my brakes and as I lurched forwards with my safety belt catching me I heard a thud as a cyclist hit the rear of my car and slid up onto the roof, all I could see in my rear view mirror was a pair of hairy legs dangling over my rear windscreen’. Providing this ‘glittering detail’ helps draw your audience in and makes your speech feel real and authentic. Speaking in generics does not allow the audience to empathise with you, if you speak about the specifics your audience will transport themselves there.
Once you have your specific example worked up be sure to see where else it can be applied and then what universal principle can be created.