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Pitching for Success: 10 Essential Tips for Perfecting Your Startup Pitch
Pitching your business to a room of potential investors can be daunting. Often the line between success and failure for a start-up is the ability to craft and convert a great pitch. Here are 10 tips to get you thinking.
The perfect pitch does not mean you have a good business, but without it, you gonna struggle to attract the attention and dialogue you need to develop a following and real interest from funders.
If you are number 5 on a running list of 14 pitches at a pitch session read on – you have to stand out.
A room of potential supporters will have their minds full of a whole of other stuff. It’s your job to get their front of mind – and keep their attention.
At XPinnovates we’ve been working with startups for over a decade, to develop and perfect their value proposition and then convey that in an effective pitch.
1. Don’t rush to start, and don’t rush your start.
Often your pitch is judged in the first 20 seconds, rather investors will often decide in that short time whether they will give it their full attention for the remaining 3-5 minutes. People judge books by their cover. Give your audience time to settle in and allow them to switch to your delivery. Bear in mind we all, as humans have a lot going on, our ‘front of minds’ are pretty much occupied with a whole of stuff.
Don’t use the same words over and over again. It shows a lack of character and depth in intellect. And, do not use words like ‘huge’, ‘massive’, or ‘vast’ to describe the market opportunity for example. Articulate your proposition with numbers, data, and short sentences. Why say you are ‘very tired’, when you can say you are ‘exhausted’.
Before books, TV, or the net, history was told by tribes and villages by stories. We sat around fires and exchanged ideas and recalled what had happened that day or to previous generations.
The best jokes are stories, the first book ever printed was full of stories, when we recall our day, we tell it as a story. We are all individually, a story. If your pitch bombs, you will share it as a story.
So, all successful pitches, are stories. Engage your audience with your struggle and quest to develop a product for a problem you saw or experienced. How does your product solve a problem for a client? How your team was formed. What future plans do you have?
If your pitch is effective, your potential investors, that evening or over a coffee, will recall your story.
4. Convey Meaning
You are trying to convince people to invest their money in your idea. Your narrative, language, and speech must all convey meaning. Your idea and your team have to have a purpose, over and above making a financial return. There has to be a valid reason why your business will make a meaningful impact on a market, society, or the environment. How will your business thrive and create a perhaps small, but significant effect?
5. Create A Conversation
You are not giving your pitch to be listened to. You are pitching to create a conversation with the audience. So the potential investor, funder or partner is not just listening, but immediately thinking about your idea, considering and wondering what are the possibilities, how will this business function, what will success look like, and how can they help. Your pitch has to create energy in the room and the internal dialogue is stirred.
Perfecting your pitch takes a long time. Often more practice and soul searching than many entrepreneurs expect.
6. Numbers Are Important
You have to have numbers in your pitch deck. But keep them simple, and easy to understand. Do not try to cut and paste your financials onto a slide from excel. Present easy-to-understand figures, in tables and pie charts. Avoid complicated graphs, they take too long to interpret – and misinterpret.
7. Use Pictures
A picture paints a thousand words. Make sure your images are consistent and formatted. If you splatter your slides with too many words people are either drawn to read them and try to digest them – or don’t fully listen to what you are saying. Or they don’t bother to read them at all and switch off. Startup pitches can be fun. If they are reading your 500 words essay on your slides they will not be listening to you.
8. Never Trust The Technology
Last but not least. Just because you use Prezi, doesn’t mean the laptop you will be using likes Prezi? If you need a WIFI connection to show a video, for example, will the network connection be strong enough at the time you pitch to be good enough?
One common aspect we don’t consider is what might look great on your laptop screen, as you master your PowerPoint, make not look quite so good when it’s shown on a projector screen. Do not assume anything. Check, double-check, but better still take away as many tech-related dependencies as you can.
9. Be Authentic
When you stand in front of investors do not try to be anyone else, do not portray yourself or your business as something that it is not. Why? Well in simple terms, if you are one thing at the pitch, and somebody else if you get to meet with them to discuss your business, there will be a disconnect, and trust is risked, and once questioned, it is very difficult to regain that ground.
10. No one gives a damn.
Now, most investors would never confess or agree to this, but most of them are trying to get you out of the room. Away from their list of potential opportunities. You will never hear that voiced of course, but you have to accept and go forward with the perspective that it is your sole job, to convince them to keep you in the room and interested in your business.
The world in general, and business in particular, is highly competitive. we are bombarded with possibilities and changes. If you want to get the attention of a funder, it’s down to you. You need to accept that even though you feel that you have a great idea and a super team, your pitch deck looks like a piece of art – you are competing – and competing every step of the way. And it never stops.
These are just 10 tips, and it’s not by any means a comprehensive guide to building and delivering your best business pitch, but it’s a starting point. If you are setting out to raise your first round of investment we could help. Get in touch and don’t forget to take a look at our testimonials.