Pitching: a rewarding and terrifying experience that should be done often

Do you dread the thought of having to pitch your startup to a judging panel, potential investors or a room full of colleagues?

Pitching can be a rewarding but terrifying experience.

As a founder so much time is spent working in solitude, or behind closed doors, where we only share our challenges, failures and fears with a select group of trusted people who have a shared experience and we know can empathise with our situation.

Pitching turns this on its head. All of a sudden you’re exposed; sharing your ideas, strategies and dreams with a curious and often critical audience. What’s worse is that pitching is a very public competitive sport.

Pitching and feeling vulnerable go hand in hand.

But the vulnerability that comes with pitching should be embraced.

In the three pitching competitions I have entered, I have won two and wasn’t selected to hit the stage in the third. I’ve also pitched to dozens of investors and partners.

So for what it is worth, here are my tips for building and delivering a good pitch:

  1. Tailor the message to your audience – if you are pitching to a startup panel your message will be different than pitching to an investor which will be different to pitching to a partner which is different to pitching to customers. Take the time to think about who the audience is and customise your message to them.
  2. Pitch your business not just your product – your product is important but it is not everything. Your business is much more about your team, your market, your traction and your commercial model. The pitch must deal with your product, the problem it solves and and how it solves it, but should do so quickly then move on to the rest.
  3. Tell a story (don’t talk to the slides) – A 5 minute pitch, with 6-8 slides, goes fast. A slide repeated is a slide wasted. Instead tell a story that complements each slide. By presenting slides with supporting facts, you’ll get twice as much information in front of your audience than if you simply regurgitate what’s in your deck.
  4. Practice – you can’t over practice a pitch. In a 5 minute pitch every word is valuable. Your language should be deliberate, concise and effective. You don’t have the luxury of winging it. Practice a lot, let it sink in, then practice some more.
  5. Repeat – Every time I have pitched I have learnt so much more about my business, my audience and my message. The value I get out of it far out-weighs the fear and vulnerability. So if you get the opportunity to pitch again, take it.

Win, lose or draw, there is so much positive to be taken out of the process of creating and delivering a pitch.

So do it once, then do it again. Your business will thank you for it!

written by James Baird

 

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