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In a perfect world, each successful pitch ought to have an unmistakable ask, or it should push towards an action.
On the off chance that you have a 5-minute space at an occasion, your pitch may be to drive the perfect individuals into a more drawn out coffee talk, set clear expectations and motivations to follow up on a first meeting, or target specific companies or people you want to meet within a larger audience.
Whatever you choose, ensure that your pitch begins with a clear aim and a ideal outcome. This causes you later down the line to decide how to structure the story to accomplish the outcome you need.
When you know who’s in the audience and the outcome you need to achieve, you can work from that point and tailor likewise for the best outcomes. An incredible pitch advances as the organisation advances, and it moves with the audience. It is never ‘done.’
Half of the fight is realising who is in the room, what they care about, and which buttons you can press to convince.
Where conceivable, do your exploration ahead of time and consistently come arranged. if it’s an investor, dig deep into their criteria and understand what they look for, their business model, search for their most recent investments and how recently they raised a fund, and check LinkedIn to better discover their individual backgrounds.
This might sound trivial, but you wouldn’t believe how often this gets taken for granted, to the detriment of the pitch.
We’ve mentioned ‘persuasion’ several times. Too many pitches are akin to an ‘FYI, here’s what we do’ with the response being an awkward ‘so what?’ left to linger in the air like a bad smell. And if you pitch aimlessly too often, you might question whether that time could be better spent building a product. Where possible, influence an outcome.
One of the simplest, yet most helpful frameworks for persuasion is Aristotle’s ‘Ethos, Logos and Pathos.’ Keep these in mind as you craft your pitch.
Ethos refers to credibility. Why should we trust you as the speaker? This is partly covered by a slide that outlines the experience of your team, but it can be more subtle. The text you use, the busyness of the slides, how you frame the story, how focused you are, body language and more all give away small clues. Credibility is far, far more than that one team slide.
Logos – This refers to persuasion through data and logic, which is typically market size, your business model, competition and more. What’s your argument and what’s the evidence to back it up? Like a lawyer making their case, you’ll need to select the most impact of these based on what will sway the audience.
Pathos – This means appealing to an emotion such that it inspires action, usually through storytelling, which we’ll cover. The best pitches resonate with some fundamental human emotion and leave the audience with a feeling. Often you forget the detail, but you remember that the founder the captivated you.
In an ocean of founders pitching ideas, you need to be focused and precise. Persuade the audience that your company is the one worth a follow-up.
Identify the levers you need to pull and weave them into your pitch.
Another temptation is to treat a pitch like a business plan converted into slide form, whereby every pixel is filled with data or text. Don’t. You’ll just be throwing mud at the wall hoping some of your messages stick. Don’t tell me everything, just tell me what matters.
Instead, think about the 1-3 messages you want the audience to remember and double down.
My preference is always to play up strengths, rather than try to fill in weaknesses. Think about what makes your business unique and emphasise. Do you have an extraordinary team? Or is there a game-changing way to think about solving a problem? Perhaps you’re seeing hockey-stick growth? Whatever it is, make sure the audience sees it and remembers it.
Don’t try to pitch an email deck laden with text in a face-to-face context.
Keep it simple and try to avoid jargon. In the words of Orwell, “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
If it’s getting complicated, a handy exercise might be to take a friend who knows nothing about your business and have them pitch it back to you. Don’t dumb it down, but make it clear.