Your pitch is a movie trailer.
Have you watched the new Thor trailer? If not, you should. I’ll make it easy.
It’s incredible. It’s pacy, it’s fun, it covers quite a bit of ground and, most importantly, it doesn’t give away too much. The same is true of the new Star Wars teaser.
My overwhelming feeling at the end of both was ‘I want more’. I want to see what happens next. That’s the job of a perfect trailer — to beguile, entice, enthuse and excite. Not to spoil the whole bloody thing.
The same is true of every pitch that you do. Email, decks, LinkedIn messages (please don’t), demo days — they’re all teasers for your business. They should all be designed with one thing in mind — to make them want more. For companies looking for investment, partners or clients, the goal should usually be to get a meeting. In my experience, the single best way to do that is to be intriguing or interesting enough for me to want to learn more.
How do you do that? Some tips
Start fast, end big — get me into the ‘why’ of what you’re doing quickly. I don’t need endless exposition. Tell me why what you’re working on is interesting, why it’s a big problem and how you’re solving or going to solve it. People remember the first and last items in a series most clearly — so make sure you start strong and have something on your final slide to tie things together nicely — this can be traction, team or some x-factor piece of info that’s going to blow my mind.
Make it exciting — this follows naturally from the last point. For me to be interested in what you’re pitching, you have to tell me something interesting. Why this idea? Why this team? What’s your unfair advantage? What’s the amazing traction you have to date? Who loves you? Who are you better than? Why? I’m not going to be interested in seeing a movie whose trailer looks like two minutes of paint drying. Even if your company is doing something that’s ostensibly dull, there are ways to bring it to life and make it interesting.
Be brutally efficient — I want a teaser of what you’re doing and why it’s interesting, not chapter and verse. Terrible trailers spoil the ending. Terrible pitches give people umpteen chances to say no. 10 or 15 slides — not 40 or 50. Hardly any text on each page — spend time copy editing, and get help with this. Think of the famous Blaise Pascal (or Mark Twain — depending on who you believe) quote:
“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
Make it visual — show, don’t tell. Imagine The Last Jedi trailer was just a 2'30 minute version of the opening crawl. It would have made endless analysis on reddit a littler more difficult. Let me see what your product does or looks like (or what you hope it will do/look like). This is really, really important. My colleague Alex wrote a brilliant piece on the importance of the product demo a while back. Take the time to read it.
What’s your nut graph — what’s the defining moment in your pitch? What’s the bit you want to stick in my head? It can be a stat, a one line description of what you’re doing or some tidbit of info about why you and your team area amazing. When you send pitches to investors, they’ll frequently talk about the best ones with their peers — so what is it you want me to remember about your company. This should really only be one thing — so make it count. Good luck!
There are some great example decks to get you started here. If you’re working on something interesting and you think you have a killer presentation you’d like to share, I’m pretty easy to find as well — feel free to share it with me and I’ll do my best to give you honest feedback.