Please stop sucking

So, after seeing people making similar “errors” multiple times at the Startup Sauna Warmups, and also at the last couple of Pitch-It events.

The classic format for a pitch is:

  • slogan/tag line
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • $
  • team
  • traction
  • ask
  • Slogan/tag line

And the places where people seem to go wrong most often is:
* Problem, Solution
Most people spend WAY too much time explaining the problem, if you have a good slogan it can explain both the problem, solution and the value that you offer (i.e. “we are for cat pictures”). If you have not yet thought of a really good slogan, probably the best way to quickly explain the problem is a short personal story, or then a couple of questions to the audience. If you go the question route, be prepared for what to do if no-one recognises the problem or answers the question.

Another way to think of how to easily explain the problem&solution part is as the answers to “who has the problem, how does our solution solve it and why would they give us money”

* Team
Rather than showing us pictures or job titles tell us why this team is better than a team with a similar set of CV’s or what are the things that can not be copied, i.e. what is the “Unfair Advantage” or USP of this team

* Ask
you should always tell the audience what you need help with currently. This could be as simple as asking for some tweets or likes, but it is better to be very explicit with what you need and why you need it.
The other reason to have an ask in every pitches that it gives the audience an easy way that they can pay-it-forward.

* Starting and Ending
NEVER start with an apology (weak language skills, no time to prepare…), as this causes the audience to have a downwards emotion (and so you are already failing, as you want the audience to be as excited about your thing as you are). A simple “Hello”, or starting with your slogan is the best start, as it is a clear indication that you are starting your pitch.
In the same manner, a simple “thank-you” indicated that you are ready to hear the audiences applause. Asking “Thanks you, any questions?” gives a mixed message about when the audience should applaud.

* The slides themselves
It is no longer good enough to just open some slide software and start writing points. This was barely acceptable in academic or corporate life, but it is almost never acceptable in a pitch. Regarding how the slides look, the best starting point is Presentation Zen.
The best advice I can give, is to think of the content, and work with analogue methods first and only in the last step actually make it into a digital asset. Another benefit of doing it this way, is that you know the structure of your presentation, as you will have gone over it multiple times long before actually making the slides.
Remember, you do not have to use exactly the same deck to present with as you might send to someone, because almost all presentation formats have a notes panel that you can put relatively large amounts of text into, or you can hide slides.
If you have a different name for the project you are pitching from your company name, only show the project name on the pitch slides. The company name can be on the first and last slides, but should be a smaller font (i.e. “Foobar, an product)

So now you have heard all the things people do wrong, why do people pitch and how can you get all the relevant points into such a short time?
Remember, one of the main purposes of a pitch is to get someone interested enough that they want to hear more, or could tell a third person what your thing does (approximately).
The other thing that many people don’t seem to understand is that in order to deliver a good pitch you need to have thought through all parts of your thingie so that it is really clear to you exactly how it works currently. This seems to be because it is only once you fully understand all the parts can you explain it clearly and simply using everyday terms.

Here are the slides I use when going through this. You will need to see the notes page to make sense of most of them.

Categories: learning | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Please stop sucking

  1. Abayomi Baiyere

    Very Insightful and succinct tips! Got me laughing with the microphone slide :))

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