On Thursday 2 March, I ran a workshop as part of Robert Gordon University’s Enterprise Event – 2 days filled with stimulating, challenging and inspiring events designed to stimulate the imagination of students to think out of the career box.
On the Thursday evening, I found myself in a room with a group of undergraduates and postgraduates who were all thinking about enterprise as a long-term goal. It was my job to expose them to the black art of pitching their ideas! Critical to this is that the pitch has to make sense to them – and to their audience!
So where do we start with pitching? There is a lot to think about, but it is mainly common sense, if I am honest. Let’s not make it any more complicated than it needs to be. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it tech-free, think about why you are pitching (do you need investors, do you need customers, do you need mentors and advice?) and keep a hold of the family jewels (tell them what your business will do, NEVER how you will do it!). That all sounds very straightforward. Now, how do you go about doing it?
1. Well, the first thing to think about, I guess, is that your pitch needs to hook the audience to want to find out more about your business – it is, in effect, your advertisement! Present your business in a manner that’s short, sweet and to the point. If your audience do not grasp your concept quickly, they may presume that customers won’t understand it either. Do not get technical in a short pitch!
2. Inspire confidence with facts, not fiction. At least, ensure that you have defensible statements in your pitch. Anyone in your audience can ask any question – if you can’t back up how you came up with that market size, for example, people might not believe the rest of the story. See if you can find ways to test your business’ viability on a shoestring budget, through asking as many potential customers about what they think about your product or service. By doing this, you have started the market validation of your idea, and will be able to present some credible market information with evidence to back up your statements.
3. Excite your audience about your big picture, but be reasonable and responsible. If you start talking about financial graphs that claim your company’s revenues will grow from £100,000 to £50 million in three years, there may be some doubts as to your sanity, or your true grasp of the market possibilities. By all means be ambitious, but it is important to base your projections on facts, past and present performance data, industry and competitor analyses and a series of well-thought-out, defensible assumptions.
4. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your business won’t be either. You need to be realistic about your route to worldwide domination and how you are going to conquer the market segments to get there. Demonstrate that your business can crawl before you say it can walk. Perfect your marketing tactics, sales strategies and operational procedures and be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Present reasonable timeframes for getting to market and your audience will be more likely to trust you.
5. Think about the way you come across – introduce yourself and be enthusiastic. Be confident (until you feel that, pretend!) – smile and make eye contact with the audience. Make sure you present yourself as an organised person, which comes down to planning the pitch and how you will deliver it and practice it repeatedly. It’s also important to stick to the time limit – so a 1 minute pitch is likely to be between 150-225 words depending on how quickly you talk. It also comes down to practice. Did I say that practice was important?
So, on my train back to Edinburgh that night, I was reflecting on all of these things – how difficult it can be to put your business out there to be judged, but how many of the scary things about it can be mitigated by preparation, planning and practice. The Converge Challenge offers pitch training as part of our company creation programme, so if you have a business idea and would like to get access to the training, why not enter Converge Challenge 2017 before the 10th of April? If you have any questions or would like to know more, please contact me.