Q&A with Catherine Moonan, author of 'The Pitch Coach'

The Pitch Coach is a practical guide to understanding and delivering a solid pitch...written by someone with enormous experience, tailored to a variety of potential pitchers.’—Richard Curran

Q. What inspired you to write The Pitch Coach? How did you become interested in pitching and coaching?

My inspiration to write The Pitch Coach came from my work as a Pitch Coach with the ‘Dragons’ Den’ as well as many of Ireland’s start-up and accelerator programmes. I could see how many people struggle with their pitch and over-complicate it, where really it should be simple, interesting and memorable. 

I became interested in pitching and coaching back in 2002. I had seen how some people really dislike public speaking, and try to avoid it. Yet it was something that I had trained in and was comfortable with. I believe that it is important, even essential, in business to develop a competency in public speaking.  Managers, in particular, need to have effective communication and presentation skills if they are to inspire their team or colleagues. The time was right for me to set up my own business. I decided to combine something I was good at with what I enjoyed doing. I previously worked as a Manager in Compaq Computers and prior to that I was a French and German secondary school teacher. I was also a qualified Speech and Drama teacher. I combined my management and teaching skills and set up Communication Matters.

Q. How long did the process of writing the book take, from the idea to actually writing it? 

I pitched the idea of this book to Liberties Press back in February 2015, and we met soon afterwards. I started writing it in May 2015 and completed it in October 2015. I was editing back and forth with the publishers up to January 2016, right before printing.

Q. Looking back, did you ever imagine that you would end up writing a book like this? 

I knew I wanted to write something on communication, but I wasn’t sure what angle I would take. It was only when I sat down to write the book that I thought about interviewing people. My first interview was with Larry Bass, CEO of ShinAwiL, and I ended up interviewing X people.

Q. What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the writing process?

It is more difficult than I had imagined to block out a designated amount of time in the day to sit down and write – especially when you’re writing from home. There are so many distractions.

Q. Who are your inspirations in the business world? And why?

To be honest, my inspirations are the contestants I meet on ‘Dragons Den’ and the start-ups I meet on accelerator programmes around Ireland. They have great drive and vision as well as such a ‘can do’ attitude. I think all of that has had a ripple effect on me.

Q. How does writing a book about pitching differ from your experiences on Dragon’s Den?

It doesn’t differ a huge amount. It’s all about pitching, whether I’m coaching people on pitching or writing about pitching. I enjoy writing. 

I based my ‘Perfect Pitch’ workshop around the difficulties people had with pitching on the ‘Den’. I have included this workshop in the book. Some of the contestants from Dragons’ Den kindly gave me interviews in the book to share their experience and to help other potential pitchers.

Q. Tell us about about your personal strategies for growth and motivation. Can you describe a “typical” day in your life?

I don’t have a typical day, as I’m always working with different people and in different places. I train with various companies and work with many start-up programmes around Ireland. I also present ‘Good Morning Dublin’ on Dublin City FM on Thursday mornings. 

I enjoy the variety, and that probably keeps me motivated. I think it helps that I’m doing something I love with something I believe I’m good at. It is also motivational when I see positive end results, in that I’m helping people to overcome a fear of public speaking or become better at it. 

My personal growth comes from the inspirational people I meet through my training and coaching. 

Q. What are your top pitching tips?

The starting point of preparing for any pitch is your audience. Who are they? Why should they care about what you’re going to tell them? What’s in it for them?

Think of the content of your pitch like a story. A wow opening, three to five main points with a logical flow, and a closing that overlaps with the opening, summarises what you have said, and includes a thank you and an action for the future.

The delivery of your pitch has a huge impact on how your message is received. Be mindful of your posture, gesture, eye contact, movement, variation of the pitch and pace of the voice, the use of pause and emphasis.

Q. What would you consider is the most important part of THE pitch when dealing with investors for example?

Investors ultimately want to know how they can make money from their investment. 

Q. With regards personal presentation, what do you find most people are getting wrong and how do you help them fix it?

Most people tend to over-complicate and over-intellectualise their pitch. Some people also put unnecessary pressure on themselves to learn their pitch off by heart. The key is to keep the message as simple as possible, and make it as interesting as possible. I help them to think of their pitch in a story format and to break their pitch into keywords and sound bites which they can remember easily.

‘Catherine is a true professional and knows her subject inside out.’—Bobby Kerr, Chairman Insomnia Coffee Company and presenter of Newstalk’s Down to Business