How to pitch like a professional
Posted on: 01/10/2014
Last week I attended the demo-day of Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator scheme. 11 start-up businesses pitched their businesses to a room full of investors. Pitching is a tough thing to get right and many people start sweating profusely just hearing the word pitch. I was very impressed by them all and I wouldn’t be surprised if several went on to become very successful.
Here are my tips for professional pitching.
Lay off the liquor
I knew someone who was so nervous about a pitch that he turned up drunk. The pitch got off to a bad start, deteriorated in the middle and ended with him telling the investor to go f**k himself. It wasn’t a good pitch.
Most pitching situations will have free booze. Restrain your nervy arm as it instinctively reaches out for the glass of Prosecco. Some people’s nerves will be eased by having a drink, others will increase. Pitching is an intuitive art form and you need a clear mind to judge the mood in the room and vary your tone accordingly. You may sense people are becoming restless and may shorten your pitch slightly for example.
Improvising can be a great way to make your pitch stand out and this is much easier to judge when sober.
Follow a simple structure
- What is the problem?
- What is your solution?
- How is this solution better than existing ones?
- How and why should investors get on board?
Be very clear about what your business does and how it addresses the problem. Is this a problem that no one has addressed? Is it a problem that is being addressed ineffectively? Get real-life case studies and figures to back up your points.
After making a compelling case for your solution, don’t be shy about explaining what you want from the audience/ investor. Give specific ways they can get involved and explain their incentive for doing so. Will they get equity in the company? Will they improve their brand image? Be specific and never pitch to someone before you’re clear what you want from them.
Most people talk faster when nervous, perhaps it’s the subconscious way of getting the pitch over quicker. Having the confidence to slow down and be clear under pressure is a desired quality. I read about a man who pitched in his second language and he spoke extra slowly to ensure people could understand him. This had a compelling and very distinctive style, which encouraged the audience to listen to every word he said. Don’t be scared about having a different style.
Keep to the point
Like we mentioned in our piece on screenwriting, every word has to count. Cut out any waffle, build-up or technical terms. Every sentence should have an impact and compel the audience to invest their attention, time and ideally money.
Don’t rely on power-point
It sounds obvious, but never turn your back on the audience to read off the slides. It’s much better to have small cue cards with prompts in case you lose your thread. An interesting technique is to have cue cards with pictures signifying the point you’re making. This sounds strange but it can help you to talk fluently and naturally rather than reeling off facts… I tried this technique, but ended up just drawing an elephant. This technique wasn’t for me.
Rehearse thoroughly and try out different approaches. Cue cards with bullet points are my preferred choice.
Dragon Den’s Deborah Meaden offers similar tips on her website.
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Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986