By @. We had fun writing this piece and you can rest assured that plenty of these lessons came from not doing it the right way first time round. Hope you find it of use! A version of this piece first appeared here.
You have a killer idea, you know it’s going to be great, but you still need some additional funds to get your idea out to the wider world. It’s time to get out there and pitch! Easy? Investors will just hand their money over to you and you’ll be off and away? …sadly probably not.
There are some things however that you can do to increase your chances of success, both for your next pitch, and for the long term too.
Here are some key tips to help you deliver a successful startup pitch:
Know your audience
Find who you will be pitching to. As judges are often announced beforehand, it’s possible to find out who exactly you will be pitching to. Look them up on Linkedin using Advanced Find and Twitter on Followerwonk. Check out their website, find out what their interests are and projects they have previously supported. All of this will help you tune the pitch to the elements that they are most interested in. Even if it’s not possible to know who the judges are, you can still research the organisation you are pitching to and get an understanding of what type of pitches successfully received funding previously.
Learn from other startups mistakes
Check out the most common mistakes startups make when pitching in this video featuring George Zachary and Steve Blank.
Practice your pitch
Alone in front of the mirror. Standup, talk to the mirror, set the clock running. Time how long it takes you to say it all. Did you say everything that you wanted to say? Did you like the way you phrased it? Did you trip over any of the words? Did it sound genuine or implausible? These are all things you will know much better by actually speaking out loud. Do this at least three times, you will then have a much better idea of how long your pitch takes to deliver. You will also quickly find out which expressions and phrasings you are most comfortable saying. In front of other people, family, friends, and then business people Once you have perfected the pitch alone, do it in front of other people. This is not always appealing, but it is the baptism of (friendly) fire that you need. As you already know how long your pitch takes, you can ask people to listen to you for ‘x’ minutes, ideally 5 or less (or whatever is the amount allocated to you for the actual presentation).
Pitch in front of these supportive people and afterwards ask them for feedback.
Did they understand? Did you speak too quickly, too slowly? Did it make sense? Did they want you to explain anything in more, or less, detail? There is never just one pitch, keep evolving and improving it There are always many opportunities to pitch and present your ideas. Be open to feedback, and ask for it too. You may not need to incorporate all of it into your next presentation, but at least be open to considering possible tweaks to your story.
Use visual cues, images, simple to read charts, and very little text
Don’t read long lines of text from Powerpoint slides as part of your pitch. You can read, your audience can read, it’s boring and not the best use of your pitching time. On screen images help to give you a series of cues, and enable you to know/be reminded what you are going to talk about without having to deliver a memorised speech. Pitching should flow, be confident, but not necessarily the same, word for word, every time you deliver it.
Make your pitch shareable, on Slideshare or something similar, and make sure your contact details are on it
While you may wish to keep your ‘special sauce’ secret, it is no harm to have your presentation online, findable, shareable, and continuing to promote and explain what it is you are trying to do. If you give it a good title you never know who might come across it, share it, or even be interested in finding out more about it. Make sure to then also ensure that you are findable through these social media marketing opportunities for you. It would be a waste for your killer Slideshare presentation not to give the reader the chance to know more about you.
Learn from the experts
Startups have to pitch all the time. On programs like Dragon’s Den, participants are individually mentored to give them the chance to perfect their pitch. Mentors like Catherine Moonan, the pitching coach for the Irish version of Dragon’s Den have written books based on their experiences specifically to help other startups hoping to pitch their ideas successfully. Read up on resources like this, take the bits that work for you, try new things out, keep working to improve your pitch and you will ensure a far higher likelihood of achieving success.