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Pitching perfectly: some guidelines for success

When we use the term “pitching”, we often refer to promoting ideas for startups, but actually, this technique can be widely used in many different areas. You can pitch ideas to your colleagues, managers, investors, and even to your parents and loved ones. Regardless of what you pitch, though, the same rules and techniques will apply.

Picture is a screenshot taken from Mad Men AMC's series 

When it comes to startups, pitching usually means selling your idea to potential investors. Therefore, the first thing you need to think about is how your deal will be interesting to the person that you're presenting to and how it will create value. Remember, you don't have much time so you need to be concise, accurate and on top of your game when the time comes.

There are several types of pitching styles so you'll have to choose which is most appropriate depending on how much time you have and who your audience is. Let's go through some of the options that you have to choose from:

  • A High-Level Concept Pitch encapsulates the essence of your business or startup idea in just one sentence. It doesn't necessarily have to include a fancy tagline, but it has to clearly explain what your idea is all about so investors can understand the value that it will create. For example, your high-level concept might be something along the lines of Facebook for dentists, or Tinder for pets.

  • Elevator Pitch. Imagine you get a chance to ride the same elevator with a prominent business angel. This is your “now or never” opportunity and you know it. How would you describe your startup in under a minute? Well, our advice is to keep it simple by describing the problem you've found, what your solution is, and what it will cost. Begin by noting any traction you've already gained and what your product-market fit is, and don't forget to mention your competitive advantages. Then, outline the particular problem your technology will address and the unique solution that you've come up with including estimated costs and what stage you're at. And remember - you're not trying to delve into too many details yet since if you're successful in making a good impression you'll get that chance later.

  • A Full Sales Pitch is usually accompanied by a presentation with 10 to 20 slides otherwise known as a Pitch Deck or just a Deck. Although much longer than a concept or elevator pitch, your timeframe is still limited to 10—15 minutes or you'll lose your audience's attention. So you want to keep it brief and to the point, but you should also make sure to cover all key areas including your team's strengths, the problem and solution you've identified, and how your technology actually works. You should highlight user traction and sales, marketing efforts and strategy, how you're startup is differentiated from the competition, and the milestones you've reached and expect to achieve. And finally, you should lay out details on financing - how much equity and sweat equity has already gone into your business, what your remaining capital needs are, and exactly what you intend to do with your investment and what it will enable you to achieve. Besides all the facts and figures, don't forget that you're telling your story so try to be engaging. And remember, pitches usually fail because they don't answer the right questions so be prepared to answer them all.

The pitch deck and how to create one is an art of itself and will be a topic we'll cover in an upcoming blog post. Still, the number one rule for every situation is to know and speak to your audience and turn your pitch into an interesting, exciting, and compelling story. Include jokes when possible, (appropriate ones, of course), and finally make sure to always note what your biggest risks and threats are because an overly optimistic pitch will send investors running every time. Don't be afraid to present your idea to as many investors, as possible too. Sure, there's always a risk your idea might be “borrowed” but also accept the fact that your ideas are worthless without execution.

P.S. One more thing to remember - when you introduced to a potential investor for the first time, your self-introduction is always the first pitch. Make sure you've rehearsed it and are good at it, and take care to update your profiles in professional and social media. Look good and good luck!