We’ve reviewed hundreds of pitch decks over the years, and wanted to share with you the key trends we’ve seen, taken right from the detailed feedback we give to our clients. You can follow these tips to streamline your own pitch delivery from your very first practice session and beyond.
Note: We’ve got a TON of resources on pitch deck design and content support here. In this article we’re focusing primarily on live-presenting and public speaking.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Sure it’s a cliche. But it works. Practicing your pitch is the key to success. Nothing else on this list matters without practice. Practice as much as you can. Stand in front of your imagined audience and say the words out loud (and always stand for your pitch. Unless you’re doing it over dinner at a restaurant). If you can find a way to pitch to strangers, it will more closely simulate the environment you’ll be in when pitching your company to investors, customers, or partners. If that’s not an option (and let’s be real, it’s probably not), pitch to friends, family members, or your roommate’s cat—find an audience and practice your pitch as many times as they’re willing to watch you.
If you are going to be doing your pitch in-person, then make sure you do in-person practice sessions. But don’t forget to also practice with video conferencing software, and create a process to do the same for investors when you do your road show.
2. Decide Who is Doing What
If you have more than one founder speaking during the presentation, things can get tricky. Anything from tag-teaming the presentation to jointly fielding questions at the end has the potential to derail the communication and turn off otherwise interested investors. It’s usually stilted and choppy, and it distracts from the overall message. This is especially true when there is a gap in public speaking skills or style between the two presenters. Switching back and forth between two people with wholly different demeanors, intonations, pacing, and presence is very hard on your audience, especially at a time when you should be making everything as easy and clear as possible.
It’s ideal to have just one presenter. But if you choose to have two, you both need to be good presenters and very well-rehearsed (this means practice together—see #1 above). Switch between speakers as few times as possible (this means only once). For the Q&A, we recommend anticipating questions and categorizing them. Divide major categories between the presenters to make ownership and response immediate. An example: Liz handles all technology questions, while her co-founder Alex handles all of the operations questions. The bottom line is that you need to be clear about who is doing what, so you can present and answer questions confidently.
3. Put the Audience First
Who is your audience, and why should they care about your pitch? Your pitch is not about what you want (money). It’s about what they want (also money—usually). You have to convince them that your business is going to get them the ROI they want. Your compelling, engaging, and well-rehearsed pitch is your chance to do that. You are asking them to buy in to your company’s potential and your plan for success. Think carefully: what does your investor care about? What does he normally invest in, and why? Then, see where your company fits into that model. Focus on the points that will matter most to your audience.
4. Speak Your Audience’s Language
As you develop your pitch deck and start preparing for your next pitch, make sure the most relevant information is communicated in a way that excites the exact audience you are pitching to. Does your audience know the industry? If they do, maybe you can use some industry jargon. A good rule of thumb is to always use the layman’s term once at the beginning, and then again if 3-4 minutes have gone by since the last time you mentioned it. The same rule applies for the long form of any acronym. Don’t lose your audience in a maze of MOOCs, RFPs, and CACs.
5. Don’t forget to close!
After all that work explaining why your audience should buy in, make it easy for them to do it! This should be specific, and it should be the question they’re dying to ask at the end. The more you know your own value, the stronger you can be about your terms. But in general, you will need to decide on your equity’s value in relation to the amount of investment being sought. At the end of your pitch, never say, “And that’s it, any questions?” At the very least, repeat your one-liner, “We are ABC and we do XYZ.” Better yet, recap by quickly summarizing the key points of your pitch and proposition.
If You Take Nothing Else Away From This…
If you take nothing else away from this article, please practice your pitch! Every entrepreneur that I’ve worked with has one thing in common: they have not practiced enough for their pitch. Not a single one of them. And I’d venture that’s true for all entrepreneurs. You think you’ve got it down? Practice again. Practice a different way. Ask for feedback from your test-audience and refine it. Then practice again.
These are our five best tips for developing your in-person presentation and making your next pitch a success. What’s your experience? We’d love to hear what’s working (or not) for you in the comments section!