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It’s no secret that pitching a business can put a mammoth load of stress on an entrepreneur’s shoulders. You can craft an air-tight business model, but it won’t mean much unless you effectively communicate your vision to others—whether they might be investors, employees, customers or somebody else. These people are looking to be inspired as much as they’re looking to be informed, so you need to pitch in such a way that you capture their imaginations along with their minds. The stakes are high and the rewards are even higher, which is why it’s crucial for entrepreneurs to master this skill. If you’re looking to turn your next pitch into a runaway success, check out the tips below.
We’ve all heard the usual advice before: start your presentation with a hook. By grabbing the audience’s attention right off the bat, you can increase the odds they’ll care about what you say next. But what exactly is a hook? How do we know whether we’re hooking the audience in a productive and useful way? One effective way to deliver a hook is by using a WOW statement, a concise expression of your business’s goals conveyed in such a way that immediately intrigues your listeners. WOW statements are generally short—no more than three sentences tops—and use metaphorical, image-oriented language to communicate what you do. You can even back this up using props. Instead of saying that your business deals with computer security, you can whip out a roll of yellow caution tape and say that your software keeps the bad guys out. Ultimately, it’s important not to say too much right off the bat. Focus on quickly and concisely hooking your audience. Once you’ve done that, then you can fill in the gaps.
Another way to make sure your pitch captures the audience’s attention and stays with them afterward is through the power of narrative. Stories provide context and connect with the audience’s emotions, which hard facts alone can’t do. Another great thing about stories is that people enjoy retelling them afterward—which means the story behind your startup might end up getting repeated again and again after you leave the room. A great story will tap into universal themes that appeal to everyone, like the safety and security your product might be able to offer, and won’t take more than a couple minutes to tell. Photos, video and sound are all excellent ways to complement your video, as these mediums all have the potential to strike the right emotional chord. For examples of the kind of stories that successfully connect with an audience, check out some TEDTalks.
Though it’s important to hook an audience and connect with them using a story, you still need to back all that up with some data. Is the market opportunity you’re pursuing big enough? Is the team you’ve assembled qualified and capable? Do you firmly understand the customer’s habits and needs? Is the solution you’re offering the right one? These questions are among the most important things you’ll need to answer in your pitch. To do so, you’ll have to pull out the results of your desk research along with the data you obtained during customer discovery. The goal is to demonstrate that you’ve validated the founding assumptions that got you started. Remember, your pitch can’t run on forever—and that’s especially true for elevator pitches—so don’t try to cram in every minute detail. Focus on the important stuff when assembling your slide deck and use the Q&A portion of the pitch to communicate the rest.
Remember, pitching isn’t all about your business—it’s also about you. Your audience is going to want to know that you’re the right person for the job, so make sure you project the kind of qualities you’d want to see in a founder. First, dress appropriately. As startup environments tend to be pretty relaxed, there are some situations where casual attire will cut it, but many pitches will require business casual or business formal apparel. Your audience simply won’t take you seriously if you don’t look the part, so be sure to style yourself accordingly. Second, use verbal and nonverbal to project the characteristics your audience will want to see. Honesty, excitement, credibility, humility, resourcefulness, logic, leadership, commitment, decisiveness—there’s an endless amount of qualities a good founder should embody. By practicing your pitch in front of a small test audience, you’ll be able to make sure that the qualities you want to project are coming through.
For more information about pitching, check out these great series of videos from the Kauffman Founders School here and here. Startup Hoyas also has an excellent guide to pitching and Entrepreneur has some great tips as well. For more information on UBC’s commitment to helping local and area entrepreneurs, check out what our partners are doing at [email protected].
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