Crafting the Perfect Pitch: Tips & Tricks

This article recaps the GIST TechConnect webchat on tips and tricks for successfully pitching your business idea.

(Mira en español.)

You may have anxiety about creating a pitch for potential investors, especially if it’s your first time as an entrepreneur. Taking the time to create a bold vision and a detailed plan for how your product, service or company is unique and not an easy task.

Know that you are not alone in the process of creating the perfect pitch. There are many people who have been in your shoes, like Jainesh Sinha, Founder of GyanDahn, and Michelle Messina, CEO of Explora International LLC. These brilliant entrepreneurs joined Daniel Durazo, a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, for a moderated discussion in which they shared their insights and advice on successfully pitching your venture.

What exactly is a pitch?

It is a description of your product or idea that you can share in five minutes or less. It should be short, sweet, and to the point.

Unsettling right?

It doesn’t have to be. If you diligently prepare yourself and your idea, a well-crafted pitch is achievable.

Why bother building the perfect pitch?

Jainesh Sinha, founder of GyanDahn, says that “no business can build itself on its own.” It is really important to do your homework, know who your audience is, and send them a message that really speaks to their needs.

“I think when you’re building a company, in the early stages you have to be able to articulate what your value proposition is,” said Michelle Messina, CEO of Explora International LLC. Your ability to connect with your audience on an emotional level and show that you have done your research is key.  

When thinking about who your audience is, it is helpful to consider three different kinds customers you’ll need to think about in relation to your business idea. You have your investors or collaborators (those who write the check), influencers (the individual, organization or group of people who influence the purchasing decision), and the end users (the person or group of people who you directly interact with because they use your product or service). Defining your audiences takes research, to learn more check out the YLAI Network’s Entrepreneurship Toolkit.  

As a startup entrepreneur, you may not always have a full five minutes to present your pitch to someone. So you may want to develop a shorter version, sometimes known as an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a conversation-starter with the goal of progressing towards a  meeting where your business or idea can be discussed at length. The priority for your elevator pitch is to make your listener want to know more. This, done well, is typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes people to ride in an elevator.

It  can be difficult to collapse your elongated pitch into such a short amount of time. “The key in an elevator pitch: you have to get your tone statement, value proposition, and traction numbers right up front. And the other very important thing from my point of view is to choose what you are going to say,” says Sinha.

Messina adds, “Be very clear and only use one validation point.”  Focus on what the objective of an elevator pitch is and that’s usually to get enough interactive dialogue with the person to see if there is an opportunity to meet and talk in more detail.

10 Key Points of a Successful Pitch to an Investor

Speaking in front of people can be nerve-wracking, and it’s even worse when you have a time limit. Knowing this, Messina breaks down ten key points to address so that your pitch can be as successful as possible.

  1. The Cover Page: Make sure you have a properly branded presentation, include general information on your startup and key leaders within your organization, including their job titles.
  2. The Problem: Identify the problem you seek to fix. Consider asking yourself questions like, how do you articulate the problem that the market is experiencing? What is the profile of the customer?
  3. Your Solution: Talk about your solution to the problem. Explain why your solution works, how its different, and what is the value that it delivers to your customer.
  4. Your Market: Know who your customers are, be able to describe your customer profile. Identify who you are selling to and quantify how large of a market your startup will get.
  5. Distribution: Your product doesn’t deliver itself, so how will you do it? Do you have channels? Make sure you explain how your product will get to customers.
  6. Your Business Model: How do you make money? Is your revenue source long-term and sustainable? Investors need to know this to understand your business in comparison to others in the same market.
  7. The Competition: How do you compare to others solving the same problem as you? Articulate your solution based on value rather than a feature by feature comparison.
  8. Your Dream Team: Who are your key people? Why are they the right people to take this product or service to market?
  9. Milestones: Think financial and technical milestones. Highlight the milestones you have achieved and for the future make sure you express what you will achieve and when.
  10. Financial Picture: How big is the company going to be? How fast is it going to grow? What cash is needed and what are the key assumptions? Demonstrate your startup’s potential for economic growth.

Now you might be thinking, there is no way to actually talk about all ten items in just five minutes. Messina says “It’s not easy; it does take practice, but it’s entirely possible.” If you want to learn more about how to develop your pitch presentation check out 10 Tips for Creating Top-Notch Presentations.

Remember: It’s going to take some time before you really are comfortable with executing your pitch.

Sinha advises that you practice in front of a mirror to be aware of your body language. Your vocal tone and emphasis, your physical energy, and your animated expressions are all nonverbal signals you send to your audience. He also recommends that you practice pitching to all your friends, your community, senior citizens and even family members. “People who know you well are very comfortable making fun of you, they will be happy to give you feedback,” says Sinha.

The most important thing for entrepreneurs to remember from these experts’ advice: You need to identify and understand your audience. Throughout the whole conversation, both speakers always came back to this point.

Whether you have 30 seconds or 30 minutes, both Sinha and Messina agreed that without proper research on your audience – your pitch will likely not succeed. If you are curious about learning more consider taking our online lesson on Pitching Your Business Ideas for Investment as a part of our online course on the Fundamentals of Starting and Running a Business (también en español).

Messina shares “anybody can be a great presenter; it’s something that you can learn to do and we all have it within us to become star presenters.”  So whether you are pitching for the first time, reaching out to new investors, or have trouble with public speaking – you must practice, refine, and repeat. As you pitch more and more, you can get feedback and learn the best ways for YOU to pitch.

Este artículo está disponible en español.