Pitching has to be one of the most important elements of doing business, which is why it’s so important to get it right. Whether you’re pitching to secure investment or to help secure a meaningful business partnership, your pitch is a way of selling not just your product or services, but yourself and everything you can bring to the table as an individual.
It may be a well-worn cliché, but people really do buy from people. Being given the pitching platform for an hour or even a few minutes is a privilege, and your chance to really shine. The key to any successful pitch is preparation. Fail to prepare, as they say, and prepare to fail. If you have a big pitch coming up then get primed with this handy guide to everything you need to know about pitching.
Deny it as we might, research has shown that attention spans have been getting shorter and pitches need to be shorter too if they are to grab and maintain your audience’s attention. A few years ago it wasn’t uncommon for a pitch to go on for thirty slides and dig down into the minutiae of a business proposition. These days, pitches should ideally last between five and ten Powerpoint slides and be heavy on images rather than text.
Business people lead busy lives, so brevity is highly valued. Your pitch is there to whet their appetites and help them make a quick decision on whether or not to invest, so keep it short and sweet. If they want more details then they will certainly ask for them. In the meantime, give them the headlines and sell, sell, sell your idea with your enthusiasm.
Keep things basic
There are ways of keeping things basic without being patronising, and that’s what you need to do during your pitch. Most people are visual learners, so make sure that your slides are predominantly images over text, because if people are reading your text, they’re not listening to the words coming out of your mouth.
Any language you do use should be simple, and free from any acronyms and jargon which industry outsiders might not be able to follow. Imagine you’re explaining your business to a five-year-old and use the simplest terminology to convey your thoughts and ideas. Over-complicating things means that people switch off, so the simpler you can be, the better.
Structure your pitch
Your pitch needs to be well-structured but short and sweet. Try to limit the number of slides to a maximum of ten, but make the most of them by setting out the banner headlines you want potential investors to remember. Use your first slide to deliver a killer opener and set out what it is you’re looking for from them, then use subsequent slides to outline the issue or problem your company is working to address and why you are the right people for the job.
Investors want to know not just about the numbers they can crunch, but about your wider narrative. What have your achievements been? What makes you qualified? What do your competitors look like? What gap in the market are you going to fill? Ask yourself the fundamental questions an outsider might ask and answer them as succinctly as you can.
You are your biggest selling point
Pitching is an important way of securing funding and building relationships, but remember that you are your own biggest selling point. No pitch is perfect and yours can only take you so far. Every bit as important as what you say is how you say it, and your enthusiasm and passion can make a huge difference to how potential investors respond to your pitch.
If you can convey your drive and determination, you’re more likely to sweep investors along and secure the funds you need. Remember that spontaneity is your friend, so rather than read large amounts of text from your slides, try to give a more natural performance by facing your audience whilst addressing them and, as we said before, keep the text on your slides to the minimum.
Avoid the major pitfalls
There are several big turn-offs which you want to avoid when preparing and delivering your pitch. The first is the temptation to say more than is necessary. This is a case of ‘less is more’ if you want to hold the room, and investors will probably decide whether or not they’re interested based on the first slide alone. If their interest is piqued, then they will want to follow up by asking for more information so they can drill down a little deeper into the facts.
Another big no-no is not following up after your pitch. It’s not pushy to send a quick email thanking them for their time and saying you’re always open to feedback and are happy to answer any questions they may have. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. All too often people mistake feedback for outright criticism, when in fact it’s incredibly helpful and constructive. Providing, that is, that you act on it. Our final word of advice is to listen to that feedback and amend your pitch accordingly, because it’s the only way to improve your pitch the next time you deliver it.
On the whole, pitching is something you will only get better at the more practice you have. Take each pitch as an opportunity to learn. Even if you don’t win your investment on this occasion, each pitch makes you a stronger candidate and a more promising investment prospect next time around.