Are you “Pitch” Ready? The when, what & how of pitching, for entrepreneurs.
There is a lot of buzz around “pitch” events! Not in the rugby/football field, but in the more serious entrepreneurial world of “pitching” events.
We all know that as an entrepreneur, at some point you will have to pitch:
– Pitch to get your idea of the ground
– Pitch to find a co-founder
– Pitch to investors
– Pitch to potential customers
At various stages of your entrepreneurial journey, pitching will play a key part. Of course, the most nerve wracking experience of your career may be pitching to investors, as getting finance for your business may mean success or failure for your venture.
When should you pitch?
Some people would say always! It is never too early to pitch as in doing so you may be surprised by the feedback you get and the connections you make. As Josh Turner, Founder of Stand4 Socks says “what have you got to lose? Nothing!”
Josh, a NEF Alumnus, was a recent winner of one of the pitch prizes at the New Entrepreneurs Foundation “Pitching Days”. He pitched his idea first in June 2014, and thanks to the feed-back he received, he worked further on his business plan and came back to pitch in June 2015, winning a prize for his pitch!
If you are nervous about this approach, then my advice is to pitch when you at least have a validated idea, even if it is at a very basic level.
What should you pitch?
1. Pitch deck: in most of the pitching events, you need to have a pitch deck. But what should you include? Is there a secret formula for it? Overall the key is to be as engaging and interesting as possible and give the right amount of information. In his blog Chance Barnett (Serial Entrepreneur, CEO of Crowdfunder.com, Contributor at Forbes) shares some of his tips on pitch deck to raise money. He has identified 11 slides that you should have which you can find here.
2. Use one slide per topic and make the most use of graphics/figures. : remember the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” and at the same time your audience will be able to focus on the key information you want them to take on board.
3. Ensure all slides are consistent and a constant theme is kept e.g. fonts, colours and graphics. For example, Josh says he uses sketches as it complements his social enterprise branding.
4. Never put too much data on the slide – no one wants to go into such micro detail, and you can always send the full financials after the pitch. Or, have it on hand for the Q&A.
5. Keep it short: no more than five or maximum eight minutes. If you can do it in 3 minutes even better! So, do practice with a timer!
6. Try to leave ‘hooks’, which generate interest – this can actually help you direct the questioning to where your key points are.
7. Start with the why: if you get people emotionally engaged with your story, why you are doing it, you most likely will have already won 50% of your audience attention. Another NEF alumnus, Mustafa Khalifa, Founder, Boxer Watches used this technique to win a NEF Pitch Prize in June 2015.
Think of the other person’s perspective or the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me). Investors will most certainly look at it as an investment and the expected ROI. Potential customers will want to see the key benefits for them (saving time, saving money, increasing well-being and so on).
How should you pitch?
1. The secret is to be confident, but never arrogant – this is a fine line you need to find. But, a key element is to show your passion for what you are trying to do. If there is no passion, no vision then you may want to reconsider why you are pitching and why you want to do this business! As Neil Gaiman (English author) said: “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision…”
2. Try to do something that will make you stand out and be remembered. For example, Josh Turner said he tends to present in just socks – taking shoes off in the middle of his presentation! Indeed, humour can go a long way when you pitch, can be very engaging, but it will depends on your branding and won’t always work for all businesses.
3. Think of your style of speech: find your pace by practicing very slow, then very fast and then practice at a normal pace. You will then be able to find the best pace for you, and don’t forget to breathe! Your aim is to make sure people who are listening to you can actually follow you!
4. Think of your dress code too: You need to be able to convey a “mood” based on your business. Mustafa mentioned that you could think of wearing “summer clothes/colours” to create a sunshine attitude. Remember how you dress and feel will have an impact on your audience!
5. Consistency is the key: ensure all your material, content and presentation is consistent and aligned with your business and what you are communicating about it.
6. Pitching should be fun and, as an entrepreneur, you should love talking about your business. Here’s one final challenge: Can you come up with a “one word pitch”? (Don’t laugh! Everybody from NEF Class of 2015 was put to this test and they all managed to summarise their business idea/pitch in one word!).
Good luck and lots of success with your next pitch!
Véronique Rapetti, Learning Director, New Entrepreneurs Foundation