I have been fortunate enough (and in some cases unfortunate enough) to attend many a startup pitching event, and have even participated in a few competitions myself.
If you have ever wondered what investors are thinking about before, during, and after your pitch, look no further.
Let’s face it: pitching is brutal at the best of times, but even more so if you a) are not particularly good at speaking comfortably in front of large groups of people you don’t know, or b) are not sure which direction your business is headed in. Hands up everyone who has seen a competitor stumble over their words, utter long strings of ums and ahs and then scuttle off stage red-faced? Awkward for everyone, really.
If you fit into either of the categories mentioned above, you need to consider what you want to achieve and whether it’s worth putting yourself through what can be a nerve-wracking experience served with a generous side of intense scrutiny amid a sea of dubious faces. They’re not all rooting for you, bud.
Fierce competition for top spots in regional finals (not to mention international finals) is a given, and this is usually where you find pitching’s gold standard. There are always a few presentations which stick in everyone’s minds, and you have to ensure that your name is on that list.
So, what makes for an unforgettable and scintillating presentation, and how do you get yours to measure up?
These are the three things the pros get right every time:
- Their execution is flawless. Think eloquent, suave, and delivered with effortless ease.
- They know what they’re on about. Preparation is crucial, but this extends far beyond memorising and regurgitating a pitch parrot-fashion. Effortless execution coupled with an in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of industry, as well as the key facts and latest statistics about a specific sector, make investors sit up and take notice.
- They’ve practised until they can’t stand to listen to themselves any more, but they always add extra sparkle. Just because a pitch needs to be committed to memory does not mean it doesn’t need to be pliable and readily adaptable. Sometimes a pitch needs to be delivered to the same people on multiple occasions, and extra unexpected oomph is part of the winning formula.
Still keen? Great. The key tips to amazing presentations are actually simple. You too can transform your pitch from good to award-winning. Here’s how:
- Don’t put too much information on your slides. Less is definitely more. You don’t want your audience to be overwhelmed by the information — they should be focused on you, not your slides. No more than five points per slide, and no essays.
- Learn how to use PowerPoint or Google Slides. Instead of selling the product for Microsoft or Google by becoming too reliant on it (it’s not a crutch) call up one of their trainers and enlighten yourself. Your audience, who, by the way, decide whether you’re worth listening to in the first 15 seconds, will thank you.
- Start and end with a bang. Know what your main points are (you have a three-second lead on your audience here), and make sure that each of them is presented in an interesting way, highlighting their relevance.
- Cut out jargon. You only have a few minutes to present your ideas, so focus on getting them across simply and effectively. If you’re pitching to a panel of experts you’re not doing yourself any favours by rehashing the same tired old phrases — the panellists need to see that you actually understand them rather than whether you know how to use them in a sentence.
- Get to the point and stay there. Cut out superfluous information, and do not signpost. That is, don’t say things like ‘I’m going to explain…’, ‘I will now explore…’ You don’t need to announce what you’re doing — just do it.
A polished pitch is a vital startupreneur asset. Make sure yours is constantly updated to reflect your recent successes, and create versions you can use for different purposes and audiences. You should be able to talk about any of the topics off the bat, and be prepared to pitch without the use of slides.
Need some support? Drop me a line!