Pitching—But Not Baseball

25 Rules for Pitchers

At some point in time, every entrepreneur needs to pitch his or her business. Rather than focusing on a specific pitch to a niche industry, these notes concentrate on the general aspect of pitching to potential investors. There is less focus on the content of the pitch and more on the style of the pitch.

1.  Throw curve balls. The best pitch is told by a story. A good story, like a good joke, is remembered. Most people forget numbers and statistics, but they will not forget a memorable narrative.

2.  Never read. Not from note cards and not from notes whether in hand or imbedded in your PowerPoint. Reading will put your audience to sleep.

3.  Never turn your back on the audience. Make it a point to make eye contact and face them directly. If you turn away, only do so to make a point and start a new subject. Never speak to your audience while your back is turned.

4.  Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Your pitch should not appear as if the lines were simply memorized. Your pitch is most effective when it appears natural and fluid. This is no different than acting. Rehearse often. If you need to ask how many times, then you need to rehearse more. Time yourself.

5.  PowerPoint should be alive with striking images, not words, and your audience should not need to read slides. PowerPoint is meant to enhance what you are saying, not say it for you. If your audience is reading, then they are not listening. Choose your words to make your points, and use your images to enhance your points. Use their visual acuity to drive your ideas home.

6.  Tell them first what you will tell them, and then tell them. In conclusion, tell them what you told them. Every pitch has a beginning, middle and an end. The beginning needs a hook, something that will draw in the audience, and an agenda, so the audience knows what to expect. The middle is heart of your pitch. The end is a conclusion, a summary of the most important things you want the audience to take away from your presentation along with a call to action. That is why school children have homework. The teacher tells them, and then they practice in school, and practice again through homework. Experts tell us it takes three iterations to identify and retain important information.

7.  There are a number of important parts of the pitch that investors want to hear: Why? Why you? Why now? How big is your market? Why should we care? How does your product or service offer significant value over your competition? Do you have a sound plan for the future? Will there be a reasonable return? Have you made good progress? Is there a large enough market and additional markets to tap?

8.  Make your pitch memorable and easy to repeat.

9.  Be passionate and sincere.

10.  The goal of the pitch is to get to the next meeting. You can’t possibly say all you want to tell in a short pitch to investors. If they sense an opportunity, your audience will be drawn in.

11.  The presenter must control the meeting at all times. Lose control and the major points might get lost or you will run out of time.

12.  Bring backup slides for the most likely to be asked questions.

13.  Know in advance who is in your audience and why they are there. Know also the rules of the funding game. Understand how much this group provide your company in terms of funds and expertise. Make sure the funds are building bridges not piers. Understand their process for funding investments.

14.  Appreciate the mind of an Angel or investor. By necessity, they have short attention spans. Just like everyone else they respond emotionally as well as intellectually. They are usually accomplished individuals but not necessarily very technical. That means you must describe your technology in its simplest form. Diligence on your technology and your business will come later.

15.  Kill the awful questions quickly…Aren’t you just like…?

16.  Know the plan to reach your target market.

17.  Know how you will grow.

18.  Show that you have delighted early customers.

19.  Dress appropriately.

20.  Keep everything simple.

21.  Be credible and build trust.

22. Use concrete examples.

23. Try to get a champion of your effort into the room. Someone the group knows and respects, and who believes in what you are doing.

24. Always have a Plan B. Be ready for the times the projector or computer won’t work, or the embedded video won’t play.

25. There are many more rules.

A Few “Don’ts”

A.  Don’t be vague.

B.  Always tell the whole truth.

C.  Don’t use jargon.

D.  Don’t sell or sound like advertising.

E.  Don’t overestimate the barriers to entry.

F.  Don’t have unrealistic financial plans.

G.  Don’t forget your contact information on the front and last slide.

H.  Don’t use cluttered slides. There is no need to have a logo on each page.

A Sample Pitch Outline

This is just one sample. Remember, the important thing is to get your key elements across.

  • Describe the pain and what you are doing to solve the pain
  •  Articulate the opportunity
  •  Introduce yourself and your company
  •  Describe what your company does and describe the benefits of the secret sauce.
  •  Identify your customers.
  •  Identify how you reach your customers.
  •  State why customers buy from you.
  •  Clearly state why you will win.
  •  Describe how you make money (for investors, bankers, etc.).

Of course, there are many variances to pitch outlines and depending upon the time allotted you can add or subtract slides. Some presenters prefer the problem – solution point of view for slides. I like the movie version of story telling:

  • Set the Action
  • Build the Background
  • Develop the story
  • Get to the Climax
  • Execution

There are numerous articles and books on pitching. Here are three I like:

Own The Room, David Booth, Deborah Shames

Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds

The Power of the Pitch, Gary Hankins

Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath. This is a great book on story telling rather than pitching using the SUCCES model.

Feel free to add your own tips and tricks, and links to great sites on pitching.

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One thought on “Pitching—But Not Baseball

  1. Great points, if you are pitching and reffering to notes might not be a good a idea as it displays lack of proper understanding of the product. However it depends on the situation because some presentation requires powerpoint slides to elaborate say data, graphs and other stats.

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