Yesterday I attended the final for Scottish EDGE round 8 which saw 22 companies pitching to a panel of expert judges for up to £100K each in grant funding and loans. Once again, I was delighted that several entrepreneurs who have attended my training or had individual coaching with me were awarded money to grow their business to the next level.
I’ve attended most of the finals and I thought the standard of pitches for this round was very high. If you’re considering entering any kind of pitching competition, read on for my tips on how you can ensure your pitch stands out for all the right reasons.
- Have a good hook to capture attention from the opening (here are some ideas)
- Make it simple and straight to the point (the more you tell me the less I remember)
- Be prepared to elaborate on your points during the Q&A session
- Be confident with humility
- Get set up quickly (ideally rehearse everything including walking on stage and setting up)
- Familiarise yourself with the space prior to the event
- Express your enthusiasm (if you’re not enthusiastic, why should anyone else be?)
- Practice your timing so that you can complete it within the required time frame
- Project your voice (it ensures people hear you and you will sound more confident)
- Ensure you have variety in your voice; emphasise the important words and phrases
- Show your products where possible (carefully consider what you give the panel to look during the pitch at if you want the focus on you)
- Incorporate stories as well as some humour where appropriate
- Know your market, your figures, your competition, your customers, etc
- Use strong simple images on your slides with few words
- Do something different to help you stand out from the competition
- Make your delivery conversational and engaging
- Put your Twitter address on all slides if there is an audience and they are encouraged to tweet
- Know your audience
- Be your wonderful, authentic self – the best version of you
- Read from your notes (it looks like you’re unprepared and it is difficult to engage your audience when your eyes are on looking down)
- Learn your script and simply recite it (think about what you’re saying and inject some energy and meaning into it)
- Hold notes unless it is bullet points on cue cards (notes can limit your ability to gesture)
- Rush your delivery (less is more)
- Say you’re passionate if you’re not actually expressing that through your body and voice
- Be arrogant
- Say ‘um’ before answering a question (instead pause briefly to gather your thoughts before answering)
- Use words like ‘hopefully’, ‘might’, ‘probably’ (instead use words like ‘certain’, ‘will’, ‘confident’)
- Finish a sentence by trailing off with ‘erm’ or ‘and’…
- Go over your allocated time
- Look bored (especially if presenting with a partner and you are waiting for your turn to speak)
- Fold your arms across your chest or leave hands in pockets (it can look quite casual or too defensive; keep your body open)
- Rock from side to side as it can be distracting; stay grounded and centred (bringing your weight slightly forward onto the balls of your feet can help with this)
- Show ‘busy’ slides with too many words (people can’t read and listen at the same time)
These are just a few tips; here is some additional advice I wrote in a previous post. Remember, you can have the best business idea in the world, but whether you’re entering a pitching competition or not, if you can’t communicate it effectively you will struggle to make it a success.
Basically a great pitch boils down to my simple formula:
PREPARATION + PRACTICE + PASSION = PITCHTASTIC!
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_