For Start-up companies, for the most part, the pitch is often the be-all and end-all of any communication. In the beginning, no one knows you, and with a good pitch you can quickly explain what you do, what you want to achieve, and what you are looking for.
Many coaches do an excellent job in improving the self-presentation skills of Start-ups. Most of the time, these coaching sessions take place prior to an event, which leads to a good result for this one occasion. Unfortunately, however, many Start-ups overlook some basic considerations that make pitching work every time. Many efforts in preparing for this one pitch are therefore used only one time, hence inefficient and unsustainable.
In this article, I would therefore like to share 5 basic considerations that Start-ups should keep in mind in order to pitch successfully in the long term and sustainably.
What kind of pitch?
There is always talk about “the pitch”. “Your pitch was great!” “Send me your pitch deck.” “We’re pitching to [any big corporate] tomorrow.” But each of these statements describes a different situation that needs a different pitch. The event based pitch needs inspiration, the mailing deck needs self-explanation, and the corporate pitch will need to include facts and figures. So remember, there is not just one pitch. Your Start-up needs to have a pitch in store for every occasion and situation. And your pitching skills need to suit any occasion. So whenever you’re invited to pitch, think about for whom / in front of whom / for what first? So what kind of pitch will you need?. Will it be a classic one-off “between doors” story, or 3 minutes on a stage? Will an Investor, a possible cooperation partner or possible new team members listen to you? And what do you want to achieve?
Your slide deck is a visual aid.
When it comes to a stage pitch, any of us will sit down, launch PowerPoint and design away. But when it comes to a pitch on stage, you are the center of attention. YOU have to tell your STORY. Nobody in the audience wants to read at that moment. It gets really bad when over-full slides contain a lot of words, and they differ from what is being said. Hardly anyone will be able to concentrate on all the sources of information simultaneously. So, think of the slides as a visual support for your story. You need to get your audience to listen to YOU. The most you can do with your deck in this case is to show reinforcing visuals or keywords and numbers that give your story structure and order.
Investors invest in Founders and their Teams.
Many Start-ups are tops when it comes to their product. They know their stuff, and often tend to lose themselves in detail. So remember, less is more on a stage. But, when it comes to the presentation of the Founders and the Team, the strangest things often happen. I’ve seen everything from mentions of primary school, to portrayals as comic characters. Especially if the pitch is directed at Investors, this part should be the best part of your pitch. Many Investors are of the opinion that a good idea cannot be successful with a bad Team, but bad ideas will be successful with a good Team. So when it comes to money, focus your creative efforts on the Founders and the Team.
When you Pitch, you still need to “listen”.
The best pitch is the one that gets across. So if your first lines fall flat, it’s better not to continue in the same way. Good pitchers have alternatives in store and can switch between variations of a pitch depending on the audience or the person you are talking to. The prerequisite for being able to do this is that you register the need for a different approach. So be alert to signals out there and observe reactions from your audience. This is difficult because it needs multi-tasking. But, hey, you are a Start-up Founder so “multi-tasking is your middle name”!
Never pitch, just because you can — Futilely!
Personally, my biggest mistake is that I just pitched everywhere, at every opportunity. This distracted me from the real goal: getting my product ready. Every event and opportunity presents itself as the one launchpad you have been looking for. However, even your own experience should tell you that, firstly, this is usually not the case and, secondly, real prospects need several touch-points before you can convince them. So this one-time opportunity hardly exists, and stories about Founders convincing in 30 seconds are pure Start-up fiction. Before you start preparing, it’s very important to weigh up what you actually want to achieve with this pitch, and what you can achieve at this specific occasion. Do you need an Investor, but there are no Investors in the audience? Or are you looking for customers, but pitching to other Founders… Then you should reconsider how important the opportunity actually is FOR YOU. Many opportunities to pitch are basically event entertainment, and your Start-up is deadly serious.
Although this is just a short intro, if you take these 5 basic considerations into account before you reach for the PowerPoint, you can be sure that you will be better received by your audience. It may all sound obvious, but there is a lot more to it than you think.
Designing and operating accelerator programs and VC solutions, he recently led the accelerator at 360 Lab in Graz. Jasper combines his interdisciplinary thinking, efficient approach and vast network, to focus on bringing his knowledge to growing companies. Jasper regularly writes, speaks and presents to Start Up companies and Investors across Europe.