The Art of Pitching Your Venture

“Ministry of Awesome is simply the best place for pitch coaching in Canterbury.” — Carsten Grimm, The Wellbeing Game Project Lead

This article was written by Ministry of Awesome Start-Up Activator, Catarina Gutierrez.

TL;DR: Here is the link to the slide deck. And here is the blog about the pitch battle.

I recently gave an hour-long pitch workshop at Live The Dream, a 9-week accelerator for young social entrepreneurs. Credit to Kaila Colbin, our amazing trustee and chair at Ministry of Awesome for her tips and slides as the curator of TEDxChch and pitching extraordinaire. I shared some of the common mistakes and tips you need to know before pitching your venture at an event like Coffee & Jam.

Coffee & Jam 2016. Photo credit: Erica Austin

The workshop was the day before two of the programme participants were going to compete in Coffee & Jam #148: Pitch Battle. We put five young entrepreneurs to the test by giving them 5 minutes to pitch their venture to the audience of 80 or so jammers.

So why does Ministry of Awesome offer pitch practice, teach pitching at workshops or even give opportunities for people to pitch their ideas? Well, because we think ideas are worth sharing. Because we have a willing community who want to help others. And because practice makes perfect.

My presentation slide for Pitching Tips workshop

Here are the tips from our personal coaching sessions and our workshop if you don’t wanna go through the deck:

  1. Don’t apologise for anything, especially at the beginning of your pitch. Did the tech mess up? So what. If you apologise for it (or worse for something out of your control), you lose the trust from your audience from the jump off.
  2. Say what you do right away. First slide: What do you do? In a short, simple, sweet catchy sentence. This will take work but if you nail it, you have the attention of people right away and they aren’t left guessing who you are and what it is you do. “I’m Catarina and I am collect used books to raise money for non-profit literacy groups”. Use analogies to help people grasp what you do easier: “We are the Tinder for animal rescue.”
  3. Why are you starting something? To get passionate buy-in from your audience, explain why you’re doing it. This may also add validity to why you are the right person for this project. If you’re a mother and found a big problem with breast milk distribution, say it. If you are a keen surfer and are making a new fin for small board, explain that. The “why” may also have some data to prove why this is a problem. Did you do some surveys? Researched some data? Are you doing it to save money hundreds of dollars?
  4. Share your validation. Businesses or ideas are really only ideas before they’ve been validated. If you have proof that what you’re doing is actually worth your time (and the crowd’s), now is the time to share it. “98% of the customers surveyed buy apps because their friend told them to.” “We have 1,800 sign-ups on our website already.”
  5. Remember you are telling a story. Things should flow nicely from one slide to the next, visually and orally. By the third slide or so, you should have already weaved a story that’s captivating people with the support of data and validation. Know who your audience before your pitch. What are they passionate about? What do they care about? This will help you tell interesting stories to keep their attention throughout.

End your presentation with the ask. How can the audience get involved? Are you asking for money? Get ready to explain what they can expect in return. Are you asking for people to come to a launch event? Provide details for RSVPs and contact details. Say thank you and sigh because the 5 minutes went by in a flash. Time to answer questions.

An awesome young entrepreneur, Hannah, pitching her new gallery In Situ Photo Project. Photo credit: Erica Austin

If you’ve done everything well, you’re audience knows exactly what you’re doing and will ask questions to help you sell the product/service more. They will lead you to moments where you can paint better pictures about what it is you’re doing and how it works.

I often avoid things like:

  1. Videos-short presentations aren’t good with videos. It chops up the flow. Unless it’s an incredibly pretty and well-designed 45-second promo video, it’s just distracting.
  2. Too many words- you don’t want people reading lots of words while they try to listen to you at the same time.
  3. Pacing- stand firm and make eye contact with everyone. If you move your feet a lot, you’re going to appear nervous.
  4. Notecards- unless I have a podium, notecards make me shake, a visible cue to the audience that I’m sweating under my clothes.

I practice my speech, talk, pitch, presentation as many times as I need so the words become second nature to me. I start by writing everything I want to say down then selecting keywords that will help me remember the slide I’m on. I practice in a mirror and in front of 2–3 trusted individuals. I time myself each time and adjust accordingly.

Camia Young, XCHC, giving her 20-second pitch on all the cool events happening at XCHC. Photo credit: Peanut Productions

If you ever come to Coffee & Jam (every Tuesday at 12:30pm at EPIC), you will get a chance to pitch your idea for 20-seconds. In extremely short instances like this, always tell people who you are, what is the thing you’re talking about, and how they can hear about more. We’ll do our best to share it on your behalf too!