You’ve got the game plan, now get the pitch
The brilliant idea, the business plan, even the market research was a piece of cake compared to getting your startup ready for the pitch floor. When it’s finally your time to shine in front of investors or your startup network, you might find yourself drawing a blank. Instead of going in and hoping for the best, here are some tried-and-true pitch techniques that will prepare you for every situation from Demo Day to your top VC prospect.
When you start your own business, you’re going to know the ins and outs of everything from your target market’s favorite social media platform to the miniscule details of your patent-pending product. However, starting with the nitty gritty is sure to lead potential investors down a path of unanswered questions and jargon. Instead, opt for the simplest solution of all: problem/answer format. From here, you can address all aspects of the problem: why it’s timely, who it affects and why you’re the one to solve it. By starting with a top-level, simplistic explanation of the problem space, you’ll demonstrate that you’re aware of the challenges you face while giving potential investors insight into the ways you’re uniquely equipped to answer them.
There’s a reason people return to novels, movies and feel-good Facebook videos — we want to hear personal stories. When you’re thinking about the perfect pitch, don’t rely solely on numbers and metrics in an effort to show exactly how your startup is doing. Try framing your solution as a unique part of your individual journey. Potential investors will be much more interested in hearing your personal approach to the problem and will start to get a sense for how, and more importantly why, you’re tackling these issues and seeking their help.
Support Claims with Concrete Examples
Here’s where examples come in! When presenting your case, make sure you’re continually answering the question “why.” You might feel like you’re playing devil’s advocate with an invisible classmate, but this tactic will ensure that you’re addressing the details that are key information points about your product or service. For example, you should be able to accurately explain what user’s end-experience looks like because you want to convince potential VCs that you’re prepared for a real-world implementation of your idea.
Use Numbers to Demonstrate Readiness
At the end of the day, potential investors are always going to be looking at a business’s numbers. Make sure you’re sharing metrics that have real merit, nor just throwing out catchphrases about SEO or market saturation if they don’t speak to your startup’s story as a whole. More simply: give your numbers context. Eighty percent engagement or 1,000 downloads doesn’t mean much if you’re not telling potential investors that these data points are coming from your target audience and are proof that your concept or product works.
Of course, there are real-time numbers and there are forecasts. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate to potential investors that you’ve done your market research, know your target audience and are able to give them a solid estimate about the future of your company. It’s also a good idea to break down these numbers into digestible infographics that can be understood at a glance. While showing that you’re prepared to tackle the problems of today, you’ll also prove that your startup isn’t going to fizzle out after a few years because you can quickly address the problems of tomorrow.
Remember the Basics
In light of the big day, don’t let fundamental presentation basics go by the wayside. A few things to remember:
Keep Track of Time: Establish how long you’ll have to present at the outset of the meeting. Don’t go over. Keep things moving and give yourself enough time at the end to answer questions.
Dress Professionally: This seems obvious, but even the hippest investors aren’t going to be impressed if you show up in jeans and a hoodie. Go for a clean, professional look and you won’t have to worry about being underdressed.
Talk Team: Most likely, you have some support or are looking to scale your company and build a team. Talk about this process and address the fact that you understand how the right people can take your company to the next level.
Build a Pitch Deck: Instead of opening PowerPoint and using the first available template, put some effort into branding your slides. Remember, the more concise and visually appealing, the more likely you’ll stay on track and your investors will follow your story.
Make a Clear Ask: Are you seeking an investment? More interested in a partnership? This doesn’t have to necessarily be a slide in your pitch deck, but it should be apparent from your presentation what, exactly, you’re looking for.
Practice: Your high school debate team knew practice makes perfect and so should you. Practicing your pitch to friends, family members and mentors is a great way to smooth out the details and address any concerns that your audience may bring up. Even people outside of your particular industry can be helpful in pointing out questions they might have about how your product or service works. If you can’t round up a group, try recording yourself and playing it back. Are there a lot of filler words? Is there a particular section you stumbled over? This is the best way brush up on those areas.
When pitch day arrives, don’t let the nervous jitters stop you from performing your best. By breaking down your solution and addressing top-of-mind concerns for potential investors with narrative, numbers and confidence, you’ll be well on your way to handling any pitch day or competition with ease.