Pitching Your Startup To A Live Audience? Here Are Five Lessons I Learnt The First Time I Did It
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to pitch my startup Task Pigeon at the Startup and Angels event at Haymarket HQ. If you didn’t catch it, the good news is that a 10 minute video of my presentation exists!
While people pitching their startup is nothing new, I wanted to put together a post to share some of the insights (and lessons) I learnt in the lead up to the event.
Being Nervous Shows You Care
I have always enjoyed public speaking and presenting to people. In fact I actually find it enjoyable.
But even though I was looking forward to the night, I was still a little bit nervous. Would I stick to time, would I forget what I had to say and what would be the reaction from the audience?
These were all questions that were running through my head, but within a 30 seconds of standing up in from of the room I felt at ease.
While being ultra nervous can be detrimental to your performance, it’s natural (and indeed beneficial) to have some nerves leading into an important presentation. What it really shows is that you care about the outcome!
Know Your Audience
Prior to pitching at the Startup and Angels event in April I attended an earlier pitch night they put on at the start of the year.
It’s extremely valuable if you are able to do this. Or if it’s a one off event ask the organiser what the makeup of the audience is expected to be.
While the Startup and Angels event is a “pitch night” it’s not an aggressive attempt to go out there and raise money. It’s a chance to share your story and spread the word.
This was perfect for Task Pigeon. I’m not looking to raise money yet. But I still want to get my story out there. If I didn’t know what the makeup of the audience was going to be like I could of got bogged down in sharing detailed numbers, rather than talking about the journey of being an entrepreneur.
And that wouldn’t have excited most of the audience.
Back Yourself and Forget The Palm Cards
I have never been one for palm cards during important presentations. I prefer to know my speech off by heart and just go from there.
I planned a similar approach for the pitch night, but as you other startup founders would know time is always tight. As a result I hadn’t got as much practice in. I was comfortable with the presentation as a whole but thought I may miss one or two points if I didn’t have some notes.
This was a rookie error!
Luckily, I wasn’t the first speaker as I quickly realised that I had to hold the microphone in one hand and the clicker (to move the presentation along) in the other. This meant I didn’t have a free hand to hold my notes in.
In the end I did take a two of my notes up. You can see this in the video. I wanted to make sure I hit these points in particular, and I made it work (just).
The point of all this though is to understand the format of the event and be comfortable with things changing on the day.
Enjoy Being The Centre of Attention But Know Who You Are Speaking Too
After the pitches were concluded there was around one and a half to two hours of networking time. As soon as the microphone was down I had a number of people wanting to talk to me and it stayed that way for the entire night.
That said, most of these people were fellow startups, people looking to get into the space or other early stage employees (which was great). I love talking to anyone in the startup ecosystem, and was even able to catch up with people I know online.
But if you are specifically going to an event like this to raise money (which I wasn’t) then you need to be prepared to politely cut a conversation short so you can maximise your time and opportunity with any investors in the room.
Remember at the end of the day you were pitching your startup to raise money, not just have a chat with other startup founders or employees.
Know Your Numbers Inside Out & Your Product Back To Front
This should be a given, but I have attended other events in the past where either the founder (or other team member they put on stage to pitch) didn’t know their stuff.
I always pride myself on knowing every possible thing about my business insight and out. I’m not a tech founder, but I still make a concrete effort to understand all of the tech, so I can at least hold my own in a discussion here too. And as an early stage founder you need to be in this position. It’s not good enough to not know the name of a competitor or to stumble when asked a question about user numbers or revenue.
I was prepared for any question that could be thrown at me. I had been running through them in my mind for the days prior to the event. But if you are new to the startup space or haven’t pitched before then I would highly recommend googling common questions from Angel Investors and VC’s.
At the very least you will be able to have some go to answers to draw on if you need to.