10 Tips For Delivering A Winning Pitch

Everything you need to know to convince people that you are The Next Big Thing

You set out with a vision and now your idea is on the cusp of becoming a reality. What’s next? Funding, resources, and customers. How to make this happen? It’s not just “practice makes perfect.”

Every year, the George Washington University’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GW) hosts its annual New Venture Competition. With hundreds of applicants, 100 teams make it to the program, 36 make it to the semifinals, 12 make it to the finals, and only one team is selected as the winner. Over the course of the competition, more than $300,000 will be awarded in funding and support.

After nine years of hosting the competition, startup experts at GW have ranked and judged hundreds of “world changing” venture pitches. What makes or breaks a successful presentation? From emotional investment to talking about potential competition, here is how the finalists of the 2016 New Venture Competition crafted solid pitches that earned them funding and support for their ventures.

1. Sum up your product and hook them with emotion.

Orient investors within the first 30 seconds. Start with a 20-word pitch that contextualizes your venture. Compel the audience, but be concise, too.

Mental Health Promotion by L.E.A.D., 2016 New Venture Competition 2nd Place Winner

2. Address the problem and opportunity.

There is a big, important problem out there, and that’s why you’re here. Explain the needs and major trends related to the problem you want to solve. Humanize it so that the audience can connect to it, emotionally and intellectually.

Rooftop Tea Company, 2016 New Venture Competition 4th Place Winner

3. Sometimes more is just more. Keep it simple.

The progression of the presentation should be logical and easy to follow. As soon as an investor gets lost, so does their potential to invest. Keep them hooked with facts and precision.

Represently, 2016 New Venture Competition 3rd Place Winner

4. Demonstrate the solution.

It is imperative that investors understand how your product or service works, what the interface could look like, and how a potential customer would use it.

Without these, an investor will be distracted by the lack of a visual solution and the opportunity will be lost. Demonstrations of your solution can be as simple as a wireframe or flowchart, or as detailed as a sample prototype or video. Avoid conducting a live demonstration — they never go as planned.

HomeGrown Farms, 2016 New Venture Competition 1st Place Winner

5. Know. Your. Customer.

In order to convince an investor that your venture will generate a return on their investment, prove the revenue model. What does this really mean? Know who your customer is way before the pitch.

Present customer discovery results and marketplace viability for your product or service.

HomeGrown Farms, 2016 New Venture Competition 1st Place Winner

6. There are always competitors — avoid suggesting otherwise.

Investors will want to know how you stand against potential competitors closing in on the market. Address these fears by demonstrating your competitive edge.

Patents, trade secrets, and special relationships are helpful, but consider every potential obstacle and provide a solution to besting the competition.

Represently, 2016 New Venture Competition 3rd Place Winner

7. Show your financial plan.

Keep it simple and to one slide. Highlight key numbers investors need: time until cash positive; benchmarks; gross margin; and opportunities for significant growth.

HomeGrown Farms, 2016 New Venture Competition 1st Place Winner

8. Talk about your Dream Team.

It’s ok to not have a fully developed team yet as long as there is a plan for hiring one. Highlight skills the team has or lacks, and address how those gaps will be filled.

[Read more: The do’s and don’ts to hiring an A-team»]

Mental Health Promotion by L.E.A.D., 2016 New Venture Competition 2nd Place Winner

9. Make the ask.

Know how much financial investment will accelerate your venture’s success and show investors why their investment matters and the ROI they can expect. Then ask for it.

Further validation in the form of grants, previous competition wins, and other recognition programs will strengthen an investor’s trust.

HomeGrown Farms, 2016 New Venture Competition 1st Place Winner

10. Summarize and conclude.

As the final slide of the presentation, recap the problem, solution, competition overview, financial highlights, and team. Plan to keep it on the screen as a constant reminder of your narrative arc.

Mental Health Promotion by L.E.A.D., 2016 New Venture Competition 2nd Place Winner

Want more?

Head to the Office’s YouTube channel for a comprehensive understanding of how to craft a pitch, from preparation to presentation.

Or, contact the GW Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to learn how to get support on your new venture idea!