How To Pitch Your Proposal Confidently in English (Even if You’re Terrified)

8 Apr 2021

It’s the worst feeling.


When you have 10 minutes to pitch your proposal over a Zoom call. It’s your one chance to make an impression and get your proposal accepted.


The risks are high. Your expertise is on display as is your ability to demonstrate clear and concise thinking and delivery. 


In English and without the comforting crutch of slides.



Your first thoughts are:


➜ What if my mind goes blank?


➜ What if I lose my train of thought?


➜ What if I forget an important part?


➜ What if I can’t find the right words?


➜ What if I stumble over my grammar?


➜ What if no one understands me?



Your proposal is crystal clear in your mind but it comes out as gibberish from your mouth. You mistakenly believe it’s because of your English but that’s not the case.


The reason why your proposal comes out as gibberish is because you haven’t had the time to transfer your thoughts into the written word. You haven’t had the luxury of seeing your words crystallise before your eyes. 


But even when you’ve had the time to structure your message in writing, your verbal delivery sounds stilted and unnatural. It sounds too formal.  You sound like a puppet on a string. You’re trying too hard to speak ‘perfectly formal’ English.  That’s exhausting and terrifying and unnecessary.



So, how can you calm the chaos that’s in your mind and shape it into something resembling structured, concise, eloquent and effective delivery with a conversational tone and with your English? 



By first sharing your proposal in an email to an imaginary colleague.


Here’s why.


3 reasons why an email to a colleague works


 #1: Writing = Clarity

Writing your proposal out in an email allows you to:


➜ empty the contents of your mind and see them laid out on the screen

➜ structure your thoughts 

➜ write for your colleague so that they can understand your message

➜ create and review the logical flow and fill in any gaps


Extra: Your grammar and vocabulary can also be reviewed and corrected automatically (if you wish) by adding the Grammarly app to your browser. This will remove the stress of wondering if your English is correct but this should be seen as secondary to what’s important -communicating your message to get the business outcome you seek.



#2: It’s a conversation 

When you write an email to a colleague or a client you’ve known for a long time, your tone is informal. Not the ‘hey, how are you doing’  kind of informal but business neutral. It’s like a conversation you’d have in a meeting.


➜ The language is simpler and clearer. 

➜ The vocabulary you use is accessible and familiar

➜ You don’t use the passive voice (‘it has come to my attention’) but the active voice (I’ve noticed)

➜ The tone is natural


A business email is another way of having a conversation with your colleague.


Very much like those comments you post on LinkedIn sharing your thoughts and engaging with the author and other commentators. Or the comments you post in the chatbox of the webinar you’re following. 


You’re having a ‘written’ conversation with others. Professionally, respectfully and in a relaxed manner.



#3: Judgement-free practice

To be sure that your proposal is clear, persuasive and effective with the right tone, read out your email and more importantly, record yourself.


This will also allow you to hear your message, your voice and your conversational tone and make any necessary tweaks. Focus on the message and tone, not on your grammar. 


Listening back to yourself will help you be more aware of the pauses. 


In an email, we break up our message into paragraphs to allow our reader visual respite. The same should apply when we verbally deliver our message but we often forget to do this. 


Even if you only have 10 minutes to pitch a proposal, you still need to pause both for you and your audience. You still need to give your audience the time to follow you. You still need to give yourself the time to gather your thoughts. Use the paragraphs in your email to help you pause.




Pitching a proposal in English is terrifying but if you imagine pitching it in an email to a friendly colleague first, you create a safe space from which to learn and practise how to communicate effectively and confidently. And above all, with the English you already have.