As every start-up knows (or should know), having a convincing pitch is one of the keys to success when setting up a new company as, in the absence of a track record, a pitch is what young businesses trade on – and attract investors with. For start-ups, people willing to invest money in their ideas are as indispensable as they are difficult to find; investors don’t part with their cash just because someone asks them for money – they need to be won over with a coherent vision for the future. And that is where the pitch is crucial.
Some call it the ‘elevator pitch’ because, ideally, it can be delivered in the 30 seconds it takes to ride a few floors with someone in a lift, but regardless of whether this is a realistic situation, the ideal pitch is indeed concise and tells potential investors who the people behind the start-up are, what problem it is they are solving and what product they are solving it with, as well as charting a convincing course forward.
As short as a pitch needs to be, its potential effect is enormous: a convincing pitch can unlock millions of investment capital, and that’s why it has to be as good as it can be. So if you are in the process of trying to create the perfect pitch for your start-up, read on, because we’d like to offer you some help in how to go about it, as well as sharing some hands-on tips and so pitfalls to be avoided; we’ll finish by presenting a few print products which can help give your pitch that all-important polished finish.
No doubt about it: for every good pitch out there, there are several poor ones. So make sure your pitch is one of the good ones – no, one of the best! It’s worth spending some time and thought on your presentation, because the future of your company could well depend on it; so read on and take note.
One thing a lot of pitches are missing is a story. To captivate your audience and stay in their memories, you need to tell them your story and that of your company; doing so will also give your listeners an understanding of your entrepreneurial motivation. Of course we can’t tell you what your story is – or how to tell it – but what we can say is that you should research some background on the people you are presenting to so that you can tailor your approach; it’s also important to make sure your story is clearly structured, has an overarching theme to which you refer at several points, and that you use comprehensible language.
What investors are interested in are who you are, what you are trying to achieve, as well as which problems you are solving, what your product is, and who your customers are (or: are going to be), as well as who will be paying for the product how; the one thing they are interested in more than all of this, though, is what drives you. So tell your story – and don’t forget to include any milestones, successes, or prototypes you already have.
While preparation is important, remember to stay true to yourselves: nobody wants to hear an over- rehearsed staged piece – and if you aren’t authentic, you will have trouble convincing people that your product is. Nevertheless, there is no harm in optimising your body language so that you come across as relaxed and confident; a certain amount of practice in front of friends, family, and acquaintances won’t do any harm, either, and will enable you to get feedback on important questions such as: “Does what we are saying make sense to people who aren’t experts in our field?” Whatever you do, though, don’t rehearse your pitch until all the spontaneity has gone out of it and it sounds like you’ve learned every word by rote.
When the big day comes, make sure to be punctual – and plan in enough of a buffer to cover all eventualities, because nobody wants to turn up to an important meeting out of breath and stressed. Pro tip: remember to fully restart all the computing equipment you intend to use just prior to the presentation as this will markedly reduce the risk of unexpected technical issues; another tip is to note the names of people you are speaking to. Also, it never does any harm to dress smart and groom well; a packed lunch or a few snacks can also come in handy, too, as you never know how things will happen on the day.
One thing we recommend taking to heart is the classic marketing acronym ‘AIDA’.
|AIDA stands for|
You need to start by grabbing your audience’s attention as, if you don’t, the rest of the presentation will have trouble reaching them. So why not try surprising the people you are pitching to by opening with a controversial statement or an open question; you might also start with some surprising facts, a short story, or even a joke that will get you the attention of the people listening to you. Don’t be afraid to get creative – just stay within the bounds of what would be considered professional.
The next thing to do is to present the key facts about you and your company in a brief, concise manner: your idea, your target group, the market, and your USP should figure here, and you should introduce the start-up team at this point, too. After all, investors want to know exactly whom they will be negotiating with when it comes to cutting a deal.
Once you’ve done this, your aim is to present your business model and your product in as attractive a way as possible. The question in the room that you need to be answering is: “Why should these investors right here, right now, want to put money into your company?”
You should close your pitch by stressing that you are 100% dedicated to your idea and just itching to get to the next stage in your company story. Finish by telling investors what you have planned next, what your vision of the future is, and why your idea specifically should get their support.
Not everyone is a fan of PowerPoint, and there’s no reason that you can’t hold your pitch without a standard-issue presentation. Nevertheless, some form of visual material is always a plus-point for anyone listening to what you have to say, and a pitch deck has the considerable advantage that it can be sent to potential investors after the event – or even to prospects you haven’t yet met. Especially in this latter case, though, your pitch deck will have to be absolutely perfect: venture capitalists get send hundreds of them every month and don’t have time to go into detail on every business model that makes it into their e mail inbox. So make sure you have the best pitch deck you can produce.
Ideally, a pitch deck will compress as much important information as possible from your business plan into as compact a format as possible; this will enable your potential investors to get as comprehensive an overview of your concept and your financing requirements as possible; additionally, a good pitch deck can provide excellent visual backing when you present in person.
A pitch deck should be around 10 or 12 slides in length – and certainly never more than 15. And remember: when you pitch live, you won’t have two hours to deliver a lecture, either. That means that you need to keep text on your slides to a minimum: a graph says more than a thousand words, in any case.
The ideal slide structure for your pitch deck:
This is a tried and tested structure for successful start-up pitches, but do be sure to make sure that, when it comes to examples and case studies, you stick to real-world customer stories; this is no place for illustrative fiction. On that note, honesty is key at all points, and so be 100% honest about your development to date: don’t be tempted to gloss over set backs or mistakes. Yet although warts-and-all is the watchword here, keep the focus on your successes; also, think about questions investors could ask and prepare some answers. Real pro tip: get some questions ready for you to ask the investors!
The internet has given us many things, including the ability to search for and learn from other people’s mistakes. So here are the most frequent pitfalls to avoid when presenting your start-up.
Blinding people with science is never a good idea – especially not if you want those people’s money. The investors you are pitching to are on tight schedules, so every second of their time is precious. That means you need to focus on the core of your idea as much as possible: why is it that your company is offering what kind of value to who and how? You need to explain complex problems and your effective solutions to them as concisely and simply as possible.
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to think about what kind of questions investors might have – and, ideally, to answer them in the course of your pitch. Doing so will grab your audience’s interest and show that you’ve thought ahead. The kind of queries you’ll need to have answers for are as follows: How scalable is your business idea? What is the USP of your product? Who are your customers? Which team members are in charge of what? What does the market environment look like – and what are your competitors doing? Have you already reached any of the goals you have set for yourself? What are your next steps? Why are you pitching to us now?
As sad as it may seem, poorly-produced slides can lead investors to turn you down, so make sure that your presentation has a coherent design (but isn’t standard-issue) and suits the overall feel of your concept. It’s also important to not fall into the trap of turning everything into a bullet point: although, in the right dose, they can help people get an overview of each slide in a matter of seconds, too many of them has the opposite effect. Each slide should have a minimum font size of 28, and this will reduce the amount of text you can fit in whatever the case. Whatever you do, don’t use animations to transfer from slide to slide (it’s not the 00s anymore and it’s just distracting), and keep an eye on your spelling and grammar. The message behind sloppy written English is that you couldn’t be bothered to spell properly eve on such an important occasion, which makes it hard for investors to be confident that you take your idea and your company seriously.
Do you want to know what a pitch deck should look like? Why not have a look through these fantastic templates (seventeen in total).
To give you some more inspiration, I’ve gone and found a few examples that work very well.
Now that you know how to prepare the perfect pitch and how a pitch deck can help you land the investor you need, we’d like to tell you how printed products can give you an extra boost. Besides the best possible online presence for your idea, using classic printed media is a good way to get investors enthusiastic about your idea: why not produce a range of print products in small runs to distribute to venture capitalists? Out of date? Think again, because in these digital times, materials such as flyers, headed paper, business cards, and stamps are experiencing a revival. Lots of companies are increasingly valuing personal contact, and this makes printed media an effective marketing tool.
Depending on the target group you are aiming at, you may find that some investors are actually a bit old-hat and like to leave a presentation with something physical. Classic printed media, produced lovingly with attention to detail, shows the passion and commitment you have for your idea and your company; high-quality print products always stand out against ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ media.
That is why, if you are going to use printed materials in your pitch, you need to make sure that you have high-quality materials which are suitable for your product; beyond the design, the feel and touch of print products can exert an unconscious effect on the recipient, so think about what kind of paper you use (soft and warm or sleek and elegant?) and the resolution, shape, and processing you opt for; think about using unexpected custom elements to heighten the effect.
Overall, the role printed materials can play in and after your pitch is clear: if investors leave with something in their hands – a copy of your prototype, a summary of your business idea, or just a flyer with the key points of your presentation – they are more likely to remember you. They might think back to your pitch at a later date or, if you offer them a link, take a test-ride on your website or app. What is more, impressive print materials are effective marketing inasmuch as people show them to others and talk about them. Another obvious example: you can make sure your contact details are readily accessible. So let us close by hoping your pitches go well and that you attract the investors you need.