Pitching is one of the most important skills every entrepreneur must learn. Whether you are pitching your Uncle Phil for a startup loan or appearing in front of smug, seen-it-all venture capitalists, you should try to cover a few fundamental points in your all-too-brief pitch:
- Establish the deep and costly need for your product or service by addressing what "pain point" you are solving.
- Briefly sum up your product. Don't focus so much on what it does but how it solves the problem you have chosen to tackle.
- Clarify why you or your team have the right combination of skills and experience to solve this problem and bring the product or service to market.
- Explain why your solution is better than anything else on the market (or any rival product likely to come to market soon).
- Describe the total value of the market you are addressing. (Please note, "billions" is rarely an acceptable answer.)
- Identify how much money you are seeking and how you expect to invest it.
- Provide some highlights from your financial projections that indicate the kind of stellar return on investment your backers can expect.
Sounds simple, right? Yet very few entrepreneurs I've met could articulate more than a few of these points. And almost no one can do it in under five minutes, which is all the time that many busy investors will give you before they start checking their phones.
So for those needing a little bit of help with presentation pointers, here are a few.
Bring your “A” game. Be as prepared as possible. Be as passionate as you can. Be confident. But leave attitude and arrogance at the door. If your audience seems to disregard your key points or ask tough questions, remember it’s not you they're doubting, it’s your presentation that has not convinced them. Use this feedback to make your next demo that much stronger.
When appropriate, introduce yourself and your team as quickly as possible. Mention all relevant key roles. So if you are producing a solar-powered window-cleaning robot, investors will know who is the robotics whiz, who is responsible for sourcing and who is an expert in the household and commercial-building markets. If you don't register your qualifications early, you’ll lose your audience.
Show off your accomplishments. To demonstrate your competitive chops, mention any traction you have already attained, such as advance sales or other commitments from potential customers. If you have received endorsements from industry players, high-profile recruits or advisors, let the investors know. If you have patents or they're pending, say so, but provide additional reasons why your technology is competitor-proof. (Remember, patents are a tool, not a guarantee.)
Include visual aids. Short slide presentations are usually acceptable, but don't overdo it. Slides discussing the market, your solution, projections and backers are a few key points you should cover. Bring other visual aids and handouts, including photos, summaries and factsheets.
Of course, the best visual aids are product samples -- even a rough prototype is better than nothing.
Work on your wording. A few memorable phrases and images can work wonders. When one highly technical entrepreneur said his company’s aim was to help its end users by “making mornings better,” I was sold on the spot. He had discovered a pithy, memorable way to sum up the product’s key benefit. Another entrepreneur impressed by saying he wanted to create the “eHarmony” of his industry. But don't don't overdo it. The same entrepreneur lost me a few minutes later when he said his goal was to create the Facebook of his industry. Find one memorable phrase or image, and stick to it.
Honor the people who give you feedback. When I asked one entrepreneur about what seemed to be a looming problem for his product, he responded, “That’s what we thought, too.” He went on to explain how they’d already identified that challenge and overcome it. But he’d already won my respect by being so quick to agree with my hypothesis before credibly describing why it won't be a problem.