One of the most important skills for early stage founders to master is their pitch. You’ll spend a lot of your time pitching — to potential clients, partners and investors. And of course, you’ll be pitching to collaborators, potential employees and the press. You’ll always need to be ready to sell your vision and the company.
So you need to be ready to go. And you need to have multiple versions on the tip of your tongue: your elevator pitch, you 5-minute pitch and your let-me-sit-you-down-and-take-you-through-it pitch.
Learning how to pitch is something that we work on extensively with our portfolio companies at Startupbootcamp. Getting from a bad pitch to a great one can be a long process, but there are plenty of key points to address that will instantly make your pitch significantly better, as well as helping you to command attention and interest from your listener.
First off, a hint. You need to practice. We all do, and likely this will be the single biggest difference-maker in improving your pitch.
Secondly, there is no right way of pitching, it is a combination of learning, experience and how responsive your audience is!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
1. Understand your listener — who are you pitching to?
- What is their role?
- What is their agenda?
- How can you benefit them?
- Focus on these things, then shape your pitch accordingly
- You only have 1/3/5/10 minutes to get and hold their attention, so don’t waste any of it
- If you have 3 minutes and 3 key points to communicate, make sure you allocate 1 minute to each point
- Communicating 70% of 3 ideas is better than communicating 100% of just 1 idea (it’s like an exam, you can’t score 100% if you only answer half of the questions)
- Focus on the part of your story that you expect to resonate with your listener
Steve Jobs was a master of emphasis, relevance, and positioning his pitch for his audience.
3. Differentiation is key
- Understand very simply what is your differentiating factor, focus on that
- What makes you different / sets you apart?
- Why should I be interested in you/your company/your idea ahead of others that are similar?
4. The pitch is your gateway
- A client is unlikely to sign up based just on this pitch; an investor is unlikely to invest without speaking to you further
- The point of the pitch is to get you into that next conversation or meeting
- You don’t need to tell them everything in this pitch — you just need to get them excited
5. Engage the audience – What is your delivery like?
- Use eye contact – include everyone in the room / bring them all into the pitch — don’t just look at 1 person
- Ask questions to inspire interaction
- Keep your energy high
- The constant speed of delivery is boring (and at worst, soporific!) — switch up the pace of your delivery, slowing down for key areas of emphasis
- Repetition for emphasis
Ricky Gervais using energy, imagination, movement, eye contact and alternating pace of delivery to engage the audience.
6. Avoid creating distractions
- Unless you’re walking the stage for a purpose, nail your feet to the floor — hopping from foot to foot is distracting!
- Cancel out nervous ticks – harder said than done.
- Don’t wave your hands/arms around too much
- Articulate your message carefully. Word. By. Word.
- Don’t let it be lost.
Barack Obama is a master of composed, attention-grabbing delivery.
AND MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, practice, practice, practice…
Can’t get enough practice
If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
“We’re not on this stage just because of talent or ability, we’re up here because of 4am. We’re up here because of two-a-days or five-a-days.” – Hall-of-Fame Basketball player Kobe Bryant
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you pitch.
And if you need a good deck — have a look at these… Startup Pitch Decks that raised over $400M
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