How to pitch in front of editors and journalists

Jakub Górnicki
Jul 13, 2017 · 5 min read

Blockthrough, Croma, Flourish, Muuze, Politibot, Populate, PushApps and UrbsMedia — were pitching on the main stage at the GEN Summit as part of the Startup for News 2017 competition.

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Over two days, each of the startups had 5 minutes to introduce themselves and present their product and company in front of over 750 participants. The very varied crowd, coming from all corners of the globe, was exactly what these startups wanted: top and deciding executives. Winners were announced at the close of the pitch sessions, with the top prize going to Flourish, and UrbsMedia was named the runner up.

I got to meet the people behind those new companies willing to change the media market, and asked them how they prepare for pitching on the main stage at the GEN Summit. And even though I combined opinions on the perfect pitch from startups taking totally different approaches, they all add up to a nice set of guidelines for everybody who wants to attract journalists, editors and publishers to their idea.

Here we go:

Grab attention

Crowds at the GEN Summit travel from many countries and many continents to meet, talk and forge new relationships. You can hear people talking and exchanging ideas and experiences everywhere . One startup started with “bots are not going to save journalism, but…” and they got what they wanted: full, undivided attention. Yet, it’s not about engaging with easy puns or breaking the ice with a joke but more about opening a story with a cliffhanger or surprise which makes the audience curious to stay with you till the end.

Adjust to audience

This is not a business competition. When you talk to investors, VCs or business angels for 5 minutes, you have to convince them that your idea has market, customers and can make profit in foreseeable future. When talking to editors you must convince them you understand the problem and you know how to solve it. And it’s not only about GEN Summit but most of the big journalism conferences which happen worldwide.

Adjust to yourself

If you are not a founder, CEO or executive who pitches — adapt the pitch to you and show it from your angle and your strong points. If you are an engineer — go from this side. It will be much easier for you to build relationship with the audience rather then trying to be a person you usually are not.

Talk about the problem

Start with the problem, show how you define it and then how you are solving it. Don’t focus only on the technical side of it but be more inclusive and try to make it understandable to editors and journalists in the room. Only after you make convincing case that you understand editors, start talking about yourself and what your company offers.

To live demo or not to live demo

It’s always a risk. It may not work. Organisers at most conferences are against it and warn you not to do it. Good live demo works in your advantage — cause you actually show the product solving an issue. Demonstrate how to use it and audience is always more interested in the actual demo then just screenshots from slide deck. BUT if it does not work, which to be fair happens most of the time — well, you are on your own.

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Speak slowly, but…

You have only 5 minutes but it does not mean you have to pack as much things as possible into your presentation. Try to build awareness, focus on three main messages and control the audience with your voice. Slowly does not mean boring. It means controlling the pace thus showing you have control of the product — that gives the feeling of confidence. In a packed conference, with lots of noise — you cannot be another voice, you need to create a good environment for audience to follow you.

Ask for mentorship

Reach out to other startups who already spoke at similar event and ask them for their ideas and advice on your pitch. By this time you usually have first clients or know editors and journalists — ask them for help. It helps you to build relationship, engage them into your company but also helps you to make sure that the story you are about to tell is going to be good.


Having your slides and plan what to say is only the beginning of the journey. You have to time it perfectly and in order to do that — you have to stand in front of the mirror, camera or group of coworkers and practice a lot. You need to hear yourself saying your message. Some parts always look nice on paper but once you say them, you may want to remove them or add something extra. Also 5 minutes is 5 minutes. Clock is ticking and you have to make sure you will finish right on time or couple second before rather then be cut out by jury members.

And last part of advice — enjoy it. Once you follow all of the above suggestions and practice a lot — even if you are not a stage animal, you will get to a point where you actually enjoy doing this. And that gives you even more extra points.

About Startups for News

Startups for News is an international competition that rewards early-stage startups working on high-impact and daring solutions for the news industry. Every year, the Global Editors Network, in partnership with selects the best startups that address newsroom challenges through dynamic and innovative products or services. To learn more about the programme, click here

Startups for News

Bridging the gap between media startups and editors

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