Pitching

I’ve now been involved in six pitches, five of which were successful. The one which I didn’t get the result I had hoped was my first. I’ve noticed the improvements in myself, and this was certainly helped by a pitching workshop which I was involved in early on.

There are 3 main types of pitch:

  • Elevator pitch: The idea behind this type of pitch is if you were in a lift with someone who could influence your business, how would you sell this to them before they got out of the lift. This tends to last for 1 minute and typically contains no figures.
  • Standard pitch: Most pitches last 5 minutes, and may involve a small number of financial figures. In this instance, visual aids, such as slides are good, but should be limited to 5 slides, with a maximum of 5 bullets per slide.
  • Investor/large scale pitch: In some instances, you may be asked to present a longer pitch. These tend to last for 15 minutes. It is probably best not to talk about specific detailed finances during this time, but wait for the questions which follow so that you don’t confuse yourself. The rule of thumb would be to limit this to 7 or 8 slides.

In all of these pitches, rigorous questioning will probably follow, and my best advice is to try to anticipate the types of questions and prepare responses in advance. An obvious example of this would be with financial figures. Unsurprisingly, no matter how good your concept may be, everything boils down to money, so be prepared to talk in detail about your realistic projections, costs and margins.

You could break a pitch down into several parts:

  1. The hook: a good opening statement to gain interest and make the panel look up and take note.
  2. Problem: What problem is it you’re trying to solve, the size of the problem and potential market?
  3. Proposition: What is your service/product, where is the USP, business model and how will it make money?
  4. People: Investors don’t just invest in the product, they invest in the person selling too, so get across who you are and sell yourself.
  5. Proof: If this product already exists, who uses it now? Do you have any press releases showing exposure, and do you have any intellectual property which you are protecting?
  6. Passion: You need to get your passion across for the product. If you aren’t passionate about your product/service, what hope is there that an investor will be?
  7. Request: Remember to state what you want from this pitch. It is great detailing your business, but why are you pitching? In most cases, this would be requesting a certain level of investment.

It’s a great idea to give the panel a sample of what your product is, as it is always better to see, touch or taste something rather than imagine it. Although having visual aids and presentations are great, you want the focus to be on you, rather than people reading your slides, so keep slides and text on slides to a minimum. There are also a few obvious tips such as ensuring you’re dressed for the panel you’re talking to. For example if that is a high profile investor, chances are you should wear a suit, whereas if you’re speaking with web developers, then it is probably wise to dress more casually. Ensure that you tell the truth in your pitch, apart from anything else you don’t want to come unstuck in the future, and take your time before responding to questions.

A pitch can be quite a nerve-racking experience, but try to relax and enjoy it. It’s a great excuse for you to take centre stage and talk to a captive audience about your business and your passion.

This blog is also now available on the Kindle Store and you can follow me on Twitter with any questions

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