5 Ways to Make Your Startup Pitch a Winner
After you’ve included all the elements from the Startup Pitch Formula, there are a few more pitch strategies you can adopt to take your pitch from good to great.
Tell a Story
Quite some thought should be put towards how you piece each element of the formula together. A great pitch flows from section to section instead of feeling like you’re simply checking off each bullet point.
At the beginning of your pitch during your problem step, try to find the story that can best resonate with your audience. This may include a personal experience, a particular customer’s experience, or a common experience for your target demographic. Make the audience feel for the people facing your problem to capture their interest from the get-go. Keep building on the initial experience throughout your pitch to form a clear narrative in your audience’s mind about the importance of what you’re doing.
Get your audience on the same page as you ASAP
When you describe your solution, you’ll want to make sure that your audience is on the same page as you. The more open-ended phrases you use in describing your solution, the more room you give your audience to, in their heads, develop an idea for a solution that’s different from what you’re describing. Be very precise about how you describe what you’re doing, and use as many visuals as you can. Your job is to turn the fuzzy image of a solution your audience may have in their head into the concrete image of what you are actually proposing.
The longer you don’t concretize exactly what it is you are doing, the longer your audience will be disconnected from what you’re really pitching.
Leave no (big) questions unanswered
At the end of a successful pitch, your audience will not only completely understand what you’re doing, but they’ll also be left with no unanswered questions.
Questions your audience may have could be about your market, your competitive advantage, why your team is the right team, what exactly your solution is (if that’s an unanswered question, that’s a big fail on your part).
If you’ve delivered your pitch and by the end of it your audience doesn’t have answers to core questions about your business, they’ll make up their own answers, good or bad, which may skew their entire perception of how good or bad your business plan is.
A great way of finding out what questions you should be focusing on is to rehearse in front of multiple audiences. After running through a rehearsal, try asking your audience if they have any questions. The questions you hear over and over are likely the questions that you need to address somewhere in your pitch. Or, if you did address their questions, you may need to rephrase your explanations. Ask your audience how the part of the pitch that addressed your audience’s question was understood.
Steer your audience’s thought process
Another good technique for arranging the content of your pitch is to set up a discrete timeline of content that almost pulls questions out of your audience as they’re listening. Setting up a question and then answering it (not necessarily by asking the question but by inferring it), you can lead the audience through your pitch and constantly have them both listen and agree with you.
If, on the other hand, you take too long to answer questions that pop into your audience’s mind, you’ll be constantly battling for your audience’s attention as they then juggle between listening to what you’re saying, and also thinking about their own unanswered question(s).
As you practice your pitch analyze what your audience may be thinking about at each point in your pitch. Did one part of your pitch strike up questions about the difference between your solution and competing companies? By following up that part of your pitch with an explanation of how you’re different, your audience can quickly be content with your answer and you can continue on with their full undivided attention. If a certain slide triggers a question about whether your team is the right team for executing on your solution, the next slide should cover your team makeup and your relevant experience.
A great pitcher will subtly lead their audience the entire way through their pitch, both setting up questions for the audience to think about, and thoughtfully answering those questions just in time.
It’s almost a cliché to mention this one, but to truly win over an audience with a 3 minute pitch, you have to deliver your pitch with confidence and enthusiasm.
This goes without saying, but memorize what you need to say, practice hundreds of times in front of multiple audiences, and, if you have deficiencies in your presentation skills, look to do what you can to fix them. Do whatever it is you need to do to present confidently.
Why should the audience jump onto your rocketship of a startup if you aren’t confident in the journey yourself?
Danny Yaroslavski is a UWaterloo grad and a past winner of the Velocity Fund $25K pitch competition.
Over his years at the Velocity Garage, Danny has coached several startup companies with their pitches and was a judge for the Velocity $5K Qualifiers. Many of the ideas in this article are iterations on ideas based on Mike Kirkup’s multiple Velocity Pitch Coaching workshops.