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.

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Design and conquer

A lot of my time recently has been spent getting to grips with various image editing programmes and attempting to build a webpage. This has all been for my first venture (which started at the turn of the 2012 year), called Access Regional. This initially began life as a social enterprise which would be similar to the Big Issue in that it would be a magazine, and proceeds would be going to a good cause. However, my idea was around helping out students with disabilities. The main issue I encountered would have been the cost of publishing, particularly as establishing and circulating a new magazine would be tricky.

The idea then developed into an online advertising portal, advertising both student venues and employment opportunities. We spent a long time going over the concept and creating a portal, however, I had a doubt in my mind over how unique this would be and where the revenue would be developed; this was only reaffirmed when speaking to like-minded people. There had been huge delays in launching this, and eventually it was decided that the best way to proceed was for the other Company Director and I to part company.

So the company is now on its third evolution, and it’s been keeping me very busy! The idea now is a combination of the two original thoughts: advertising and reviewing local entertainment venues, but doing so in a magazine. This would also mean that I could get a team of writers together covering the Birmingham area, which would help with distribution. The idea of a physical copy of the magazine being published was abandoned a long time ago, and now the focus is on an e-magazine. The business model adapted by the ‘Shortlist’ magazine is one which I admire, and it must be working, given the number of awards they have received. So this is the model which I am adapting, but with a twist in the method of delivery and circulation, and therein lies the USP. I can’t reveal what that will be just yet, as I’m looking into the intellectual property behind this, and whether or not I can protect it. Needless to say, this will be the world’s first magazine distributed in this way.

As the other Company Director used to handle the web development and graphics side of the business, this has given me a steep learning curve, but one I am enjoying and learning a lot from. I’ve found www.moonfruit.com a great place to start, and would recommend that to anyone. There are several courses you can go on in order to learn how to use Adobe PhotoShop, but so far, I’ve found finding free fonts, and then altering the images using basic features of PhotoShop produce good results.

The landing page for Access Regional is now up (www.accessregional.com), so do have a look and subscribe to pre-launch page, to ensure that you are one of the first to hear about the launch and receive a copy.

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