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Kevin Krejci via Flickr (CC 2.0 BY-SA, resized)

These six tips will help you as an entrepreneur master the art of pitching

You’ve secured that all important meeting with a potential investor, or perhaps you have received confirmation that you’ve been shortlisted to the final pitch event of that accelerator or incubator programme you applied to. Now, how do you craft the perfect winning pitch?

“When it comes to a pitch, there is no quick fix!” says Louise Mitchell who helps entrepreneurs and others improve their pitching.

“Crafting a pitch is an art that you’ll use throughout the life of your business – pitching to partners, then investors and customers,” adds Mitchell, who has over 30 years-experience working in business-to-business communication.

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching is using the same pitch deck

Here are some tips on how entrepreneurs can improve their pitching.

Start gathering content at concept stage

Wondering what content you should put in your pitch? Start at concept stage.

“While you are throwing ideas around with your partners or making notes about your market, you’re essentially developing some of the material for your first pitch. Don’t dump that material,” says Mitchell.

“Revisit it when you are preparing your investor, partner and customer pitches – you’ll probably relive some of your AHA moments and they’ll come in handy,” she adds.

Keep it short, honest and sweet

Mitchell believes a great pitch should be compelling. She advises entrepreneurs to “be real, be honest and help investors keep track by not bombarding them with data.”

“They might not all be techies, they might be hearing this for the first time, however, they want to make an informed decision. Primarily, you need to give them facts that prove that you have a good business case, that the timing is right and that you have the team to execute it,” she says.

Entrepreneurs should avoid telling the audience about a problem they know exists for too long, as it might sound patronising.

“There are other ways of conveying it that can be equally informative or even better. Give them a moment of intense clarity and a good reason to think ‘this sounds interesting, I want to know more’.

“If you don’t do that in the first 30 seconds, the chance is that the investors have lost concentration and are simply being polite,” she adds.

Don’t talk about yourself

You may think you’re an awesome magnificent individual. You have to be one to be an entrepreneur after all. A pitch she says is not the right place to dive into how amazing you are. Keep the personal details for after you have their attention.

“I hear many pitches that start with these word, ‘A bit about me…’ but it’s not about you. It’s about the difference you’re going to make to your market, to your industry and to your investors,” says Mitchell.

Don’t use the same pitch deck

“A big mistake entrepreneurs make with pitch presentations is thinking that one slide deck does it all! A pitch deck for e-mail is very different from one you use when you are in the room. Ultimately a pitch is a persuasive conversation and you have different conversations with each person you talk to,” says Mitchell.

“Your pitch decks have to work on the same principle,” she adds.

“If your first investor pitch deck is really good, you’ll have something that you can adjust at a later stage for partners and customers. Large portions of it will change along the way but at least you’ll have the core content available.”

Keep your financials handy

Mitchell says entrepreneurs should always keep a copy of their financials at hand when meeting investors. The same goes for startups pitching to enter an acceleration programme or an incubator, it is important to know your numbers and be ready to demonstrate how much traction you have gained.

“Give it to them at question time rather than before as they might use it for paper aeroplanes! To some extent, it will help you direct the line of questioning. A day or two after you pitch, send them a short pitch summary to sneakily keep their attention; keep it to something that fits easily into the body of the email rather than an attachment,” says Mitchell.

Preparation is key

“Most of all, prepare. Prepare so well that you no longer sound prepared. Prepare to the point that you are chatty and seemingly spontaneous… without missing a beat. It helps calm nerves. You can stop worrying about yourself and give all your attention to the people you’re trying to persuade,” says Mitchell.

“Find someone to bounce it off, someone who understands all aspects of the pitch from the content to the spoken delivery,” she suggests.

“If you go to a dinner party and someone asks you what you do for a living, you should be able to draw on elements of your pitch without anyone being any the wiser. When you can do that, and you get everyone’s attention, you’ll know that you have a good pitch,” she adds.

“With luck, there’ll be an investor in the room!”

Featured image: Kevin Krejci via Flickr (CC 2.0 BY-SA, resized)