I looked out into the crowd. Three hundred people looked back at me, waiting for me to start singing.

No, this wasn’t a performance. There was no jazz band. (In fact, this was years before I became a jazz singer.)

I was standing behind a podium with a machzor — a High Holy Days prayerbook — in front of me, leading Rosh Hashanah services for my lay-led congregation.

I launched into the song, heart pounding, and three hundred voices joined in, but instantly I realized that I had started the song on a pitch that was way. Too. High. 

Yikes! How mortifying!

This was one of my biggest fears as a service leader brought to life!

I had a split second to make a decision:

  • Keep going, and risk permanent damage to someone’s vocal chords (including mine!)
  • Stop, and risk embarrassment

Omigosh! What to do?

About three notes in, I stopped. I took a breath, looked out at the congregation and said, “Well, that didn’t work so well. Let’s try again.”

To my surprise, instead of being upset or disgusted with me, people just laughed. All the tension seemed to drain out of the room.

Simply acknowledging that I’m human actually helped people connect with me.


Here’s what that moment taught me: more than anything, audiences want to connect with a presenter. And the best way to connect? Be real. 

You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, if people see you as perfect, that will act as a barrier to connection.

Whether you’re presenting an idea to your CEO, pitching your startup to a venture capitalist to try to secure funding, or trying to convince the city council to make a change, you’ve got to connect to your audience.

In all cases, it’s much better to be real than to be perfect, because when you’re real it allows people to relate to you.

So if you’ve got any anxiety around pitching or presenting, especially if you feel you have to be perfect, let that go.

Yes, it’s important to practice your pitch or presentation, but don’t worry about being perfect.

Focus instead on connecting with your audience by being real.

Assess Where You Stand

Audience connection is one of three key skills that are essential for nailing any high-stakes pitch.

If you’d like to evaluate where you stand in these key skills, I made a tool to help with that: the Pitch Perfect Assessment. It will help you understand your strengths and where you need to improve in order to nail your next high-stakes pitch, all in 5 -10 minutes.

Click here to download it now, and let me know what you think!

And if there’s someone in your network who could use help getting to “YES!” faster in their next pitch, forward this email to them.

And if you’re ready to up your game, book a complimentary Masterful Presentation Consultation to learn 3 customized strategies to help you get your message across so you can get heard, get understood, and get to “YES!” faster on your next pitch.


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