The Science and Art of a Powerful Pitch

I have had the pleasure of working with a number of organisations and individuals over the last five years as a pitch coach. I have been able to work with some amazing startups, accelerators and companies who provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to sharpen their skills and deliver knockout pitches.

On this same journey I have seen some absolutely horrendous pitches where some good ideas and people have totally lost out on investment, networks and support because they did not put enough effort into the pitch.

I am starting a series of articles where I will be sharing some of the ideas that have worked both on the pitches I have worked on and the pitches I have seen others deliver as a result of other successful coaching. Of course I will also include insights on those that have worked for some of the business programmes that have dominated our screens for the best part of the last decade.

The Science of a Pitch
Long before anyone steps up to deliver a pitch it is so important for the homework to have been done. The science as it were. For me these are the essential ingredients that drive a good pitch.

1. PROBLEM — The business you are pitching should be solving a problem. If you cannot engage investors and funders in the problem you are addressing then you have lost half the battle. This problem has to be a real viable one, not just a pretty ego soothing idea.

2. PRODUCT — Having identified the problem the product (or service) that is at the heart of your business should be the solution to the problem you mentioned. Be clear what platform it exists on. Too many people pitch ideas based on technology alone but tech is not the only platform you can sell ideas on.

3. PROOF — So what proof do you have that your problem exists? Have you conducted any market research that justifies this? If not first hand research, do you have third party research and numbers? If your product is up and running already what traction do you have? Has any one bought your product? Do you have users? Do you have prototype of what the product/service looks like?

4. PLAN — No investor will take you seriously if you don’t have a good business model and plan. Your plan should be linked, with proof, of how you came to your conclusions around sales, costs, burn rate, cost of acquisition of clients, etc? Does your business plan demonstrate how you protect your IP and how you are going to work with your market?

5. PEOPLE — Who is in your team? Venture capitalists and some business angels are always keen to see who is in your team. Who is running the business side? Who is responsible for sales and marketing or product design? Who is responsible for operations and the sustainability? One more bit that many small teams forget to include is who their advisors are. Who is mentoring or guiding you on bringing your product to market and what is their experience?

6. PROPOSITION — Always be closing is motto I live by as a pitch coach. Of course you want to impress investors with your whiz bang disruptive, innovative, market changer but what do you really want from them. What is your ask? Is it Investment? Access to a network or resources? It is vital that you and your team know this before you even get up on a stage. Make sure that the proposition of partnership is a constant theme in the pitch.

The Art of the Pitch
Having identified the background work for your pitch, we now move over to the art of pitch. How you pull together the details of the pitch and present it so that you win investors over.

1. PASSION — If you are not excited about what you are bringing to the market why should anyone else be? A huge part of investor buy in is based on the people who are presenting and their desire to take this to the next level. This is not about extraversion or introversion but about a visible cue that you are excited about your product and that you want potential partners to be just as excited.

2. PRESENTATION — I can’t emphasize how important it is to get the delivery right on your presentation . Whether a 30 second elevator pitch, a video or a longer presentation this has to be done to the high level you would focus on for your content or corporate identity. Whether a slide deck, prezi (pitch deck) or documents (pitch docs) that you want investors to have a take away with more detail than you talk about, make sure you bring your A game to the presentation.

3. PACE — The energy with which you bring your pitch is just as fundamental as your Presentation visuals and your Passion. Whether scripted or from the heart the pace with which you deliver is part of the trinity of a great pitch.

4. PRACTICE — I don’t mind being contrarian here but I will guess that most demo days and final presentations I have seen that have flopped have done so because of a lack of practice. You can’t practice enough.

So there you go. These are the models that I live by when coaching startups and growing companies about how they can pitch effectively to investors, whether to angels, venture capitalists or even for crowd funding platforms.

I look forward to sharing in detail the breakdown of the 10 P’s of a Powerful Pitch in my series of article