The Art of Pitching

Filed Under: September 2018 Issue

 By Ja-Naé Duane
The last time you pitched your business, something awful happened. They said, “No.” I’ve been there. It’s not a pleasant experience. But before you toss everything aside and send your business to the dust heap of history, I’ve got a question. Could your pitch, and not your idea, be the problem? Here are some things to consider.

  • Thing 1 or Thing 2? Did you present one unique value proposition or 50? It’s really hard for investors to get a sense of your idea’s value (and focus) if you can’t narrow down your pitch to the one thing that defines the greatest value of your idea.
  • Put away the thesaurus. As you build you pitch, pick one word that encompasses it. Maybe it’s an emotion (excited) or maybe it’s an action. You can think of this word as your theme, but whatever word you pick let it be the filter you look through to tighten up your pitch.
  • Make a splash. At some point in the near future, we’ll see one billion entrepreneurs worldwide. How will you stand out? What do you have to offer that can’t be found elsewhere?
  • Get up close and personal. I wrote earlier about how investors need more than just a great idea. They need to know the people presenting the idea. Don’t be afraid to share who you are as part of your pitch.
  • Tap into emotions. Very few humans are rational all the time. We rely on emotion to make decisions more often than we like to admit. So, bring some emotion into your pitch. Use it as an entry point for people to connect with your ideas more deeply.
  • Find your voice. This advice goes back to making a splash. Your team has a voice and a perspective that adds value. Use your voice and your team’s voice throughout the pitch, and don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  • It’s in the way you move. Body language remains one of those tricky pitch components that we tend to overlook. Things like slouching or crossed arms can give the wrong impression. Practice keeping your body language open through the pitch.
  • I see you like tiny font. Look, I know you have a lot to say, but keep it to a minimum on your slide deck. Font size should be 30+. Anything smaller distracts and keeps the audience focused on the deck and not the person making the pitch.
  • Go visual. As the storyteller, the focus should be on you. By keeping your slides mostly visual with minimal text, you ensure that the audience stays with you instead of trying to read the slide and get ahead of you.
  • Memory, all alone in the moonlight. I know entrepreneurs get nervous during the pitch. I’ve felt the butterflies, too.

So why not rely on notes as you present? Because it just doesn’t inspire confidence. Investors want to see and hear that you know your stuff. Plus, as you commit your pitch to memory, you’ll be prepared from chatting in the elevator with a VC to winging it when projector breaks. For better or worse, your pitch is how many people will decide whether they like your business idea. The more you can refine and tighten, the more attention you can direct to your idea. The pitch simply becomes the tool that gets people hooked on the opportunity you offer. Don’t let one bad pitch knock you off balance. After all, in baseball, you get at least three. What’s one thing you could fix or change right now before your next pitch? A version of this article originally appeared at StartupEquation.com.
Ja-Naé Duane is Founder of The Revolution Factory and co-author of The Startup Equation. She can be reached at janaeduane@gmail.com.

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