Four years ago, I’ve dived into the startup world and I’ve seen a few hundreds (or more?) startup pitches since then, from early stage to mature companies. With this experience and a great presentation from the amazing Jean-Pierre Vuilleumier (who I’d like to thank for his energy at helping swiss startups and what he taught me) in mind, I thought that some tips on how to pitch your startup could be helpful. I’ve also recently observed that the need for pitch coaching/training is really present, for first time entrepreneurs as well as for more experienced ones. I do not pretend to reinvent the art of pitching, but sincerely hope that it will help you make a greater impact…
To make it digestible, I’ve decided to split the content in a blog serie that will be published on Mondays. Don’t forget to register (per email), follow me or sign up to my newsletter to be sure to get all posts!
- Part 1: What’s a pitch, why you need one and the common mistakes you do (or did)
- Part 2: The 10 (+1) slides you need
- Part 3: The soft skills (and more) required for a great pitch
Why are you constantly pitching as an entrepreneur? For those who discover the term pitching right now, this word is used to name the action of presenting your project/company efficiently.
There are basically 2 types of pitches (consciously neglecting the sales pitch, which is a bit different):
- the high concept pitch, which allows you to present what you do in 30 seconds and 1 or 2 sentences. This pitch is also called elevator pitch, because if you meet Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page or David Marcus (founder of Zong, from Switzerland and who sold his company to PayPal and recently became president of its board!) in an elevator, you’d better be efficient to tell him quickly what you do… otherwise you’ll have missed the opportunity! Moreover, a well thought elevator pitch is a MUST HAVE for anyone, as it shows how you can explain your business opportunity to everyone, despite its high technological complexity.
- the investor pitch is when you have the opportunity to present your startup to one or more investors. In this case, you have a bit more time but you also should go straight to the point, because time is scarce for everyone (and investors, as any common human being, hate losing time). Your audience is there to listen your pitch, but also other ones. So you’d better be well prepared to stand out of the crowd!
I’ll focus more on the second one here, as presenting to investors is one of the key skills you’ll need as a high-tech founder of a promising startup.
The only goal you should have for doing a pitch (forget ego, that is, to be the center of attention… it’s not Facebook here!) is always to reach the next step. Which can be to send your complete Business Plan to investors or just to set a meeting. When you’re pitching to students, the goal is probably to receive job or internship applications for your current or future hiring needs (remember that a great CEO is always hiring).
Make clear in your mind why you’d like to be able to pitch to an audience. Already heard about the “www principle”?
- Why? To inform, to motivate, to convince, to provoke.
- What? Key message.
- Who? is in the audience? What do they expect, what is their background?
It’s important to remember you’re pitching to help you go to the next step, not to jump this step during your pitch! Wake up: nobody will sign you a check right after a pitch. The odds are probably better to win the amount required at Euromillions!
We often hear founders complain that they hadn’t enough time to deliver their entire presentation. That’s absolutely not an excuse, if you fail delivering your message in 5 (or 7 or 9!) minutes, you’re probably not prepared enough! The sorter your pitch, the better it probably is.
There are some common and regular mistakes we can observe during a pitch:
- Stuff is too technical: listeners don’t have your technical expertise.
- Too many slides
- Too much text: the audience will then read your slides rather than listening to you (making your presence… yeah, not necessary!). Use always a minimal font size of 30. It helps. Really.
- Reading your slides: are you telling me that I’m not capable of it? The presenter has to add value to the presentation. Generally speaking, it’s not bad if your slides don’t reveal everything without what you say (you can still share a more detailled presentation to investors afterwards)
- You speak too quickly in order to be able to make your whole presentation: my reaction is that… it’s just becoming noise to my ears and I do not want to hear this disturbing noise longer! I’m not saying you cannot bring ENERGY in your presentation, though!
- You’re constantly looking at the screen, rather than looking your audience! Normally, you should know what’s on your slides, no? Be sure you have the laptop screen between you and your audience (so you can still know the slide currently shown), so you can make eye contact with some guys. Look at one persone at a time (do no try to scan every guy in the room). That will help you reduce your nervousness and reading your audience. A good tip is to avoid the pointer! If you absolutely need one, your presentation is probably not clear enough. Or you’re not sure enough of what you’re presenting me.