This article is a reflection of a few things that worked for me in my first year that helped me win the pitch competition. I’ve broken my advice into three, equally important buckets: time, process and tactics. Good luck, I hope to see you in the finals!
Time – If You’re Reading This It’s (almost) Too Late
Your biggest competitive advantage for this competition is time for two reasons. First (and you saw this coming) is you need time to practice. You can say it perfectly 20 times in front of your mirror but as soon as 60 eyes are on you in your lab, it’s very easy to get nervous and forget parts. I’ll leave it at that because you’re a 1st year Laurier student and it’s probably obvious; know it inside and out, practice makes perfect. Secondly, avoid writing your pitch all in one sitting. Write a bit, put it aside, sleep on it then go back to it on another day. If you don’t believe me read your New Venture Report from last semester over again. You’ll be astonished with how much better you could have written; sentences won’t make sense, arguments will be unclear or weak, and random sentences will appear that don’t seem like they belong. I’m serious, go in to your files, Laurier, 1st year, 1st semester, BU111…. Etc If you increase the amount of “pitch writing sittings”, the more clarity your pitch will gain.
Exercise: Carve out 30 minutes or an hour, every night for the next week devoted to writing & rehearsing your pitch.
Process – “I wrote my pitch, now I have to memorize it”
Wrong. This does not have to be the order of how you go about your pitch. It may work for some people but it was definitely not the approach I took. The approach I found to be successful was to write, rehearse, edit and memorize in an organized chaos. Here’s how I “wrote” my pitch.
1- Word vomit everything you can about your New Venture on to a page. Don’t think about it too hard, just start. You’re not writing a final paper or a romantic love letter, just blab stuff. Convenience, Accessibility, app store, Laurier, students saving time, long wait lines, huge market with lots of potential upside etc. The goal of this is to not forget any key elements of your product/service.
2- From here pick and choose what is most relevant for your pitch. What you should focus on that highlights the value of the new venture to investors? From here, begin turning words into sentences.
3- While you’re turning words into sentences, say them out loud and ramble. On some occasions I found myself rambling on about absolutely useless material but other times, I struck gold.
4- Once you feel like you have a decent paragraph or a few lines, move on and keep writing. Once you have a bunch of material it’ll start to look like a puzzle and then you can start pulling things together. Call this a (very) rough draft.
5- Read it out loud, make edits, add things, cut things, read it out loud again, make more edits and so on.
6- Rehearse, revise, rewrite then rehearse, revise, rewrite again.
7- Although people in your lab will know your new venture, your ultimate audience is an investor who has never heard of it before. Anyone should be able to go through your pitch and understand the new venture, the pain currently experienced and the gain it ultimately creates. Pretend your pitching to your grandparents, they should be able to follow you start to finish.
Again this process is one that worked for me and may not work for everyone. The key here is the iterations of revisions and rehearsals. The more iterations, the better the product. By the time you’re done “writing” your pitch you’ll already have it memorized because you’ve rehearsed it so many times, tweaking it, trying to get in the right content.
Tactics – Making Your Pitch Memorable
– Link the introduction with the conclusion and try to bring the pitch “full circle”. The most compelling pitches have a beginning and ending that relate to each other in some way.
– Give simple examples to explain complex ideas. If you have something complicated to explain (business model, pricing model, how it works) I found following up with the same concept explained in simple terms is incredibly effective. Do the “business/complicated explanation” but follow it up with a “plain English” explanation. Ex: “We’re like an Uber eats except we do A, B and C which gives us our competitive advantage”
– Use the power of 3’s. People love 3’s. Without forcing it, if you find a way to integrate 3 of anything into your pitch, consider it. This article is broken into 3 parts because it’s easy to follow. “Rehearse, revise, rewrite” is another example, bonus points if you can get them to start with the same letter or end with the same sound.
– Show your emotion depending on the mood of the pitch. If it’s a fun product/service, smile, be energetic. Set the tone early and be consistent.
– Define the problem, clearly and tell a story. Depending on the type of product, how this is done will vary. The goal is to in some way relate the problem to your audience. Mine was about avoiding long lines in the Food Court, that’s a pretty easy one to do because everyone in my audience had experienced it. If it’s something for seniors, bring in “grandma and grandpa”. If it’s about a product that better cleans your fruits & vegetables, tell them a story: “you go to the grocery store, you grab a cart, the doors slide open and it’s the first thing you see…staring at you… the cherry red apples. There is an incredible amount of dust that accumulates on these from the doors opening and closing etc”. Whatever the new venture may be, try to be as clear and vivid as possible. Telling stories is an incredibly powerful tool.
– Make sure you hit the WIIFM. How much money are you asking for and what is it going to be used for?
– Numbers and stats are only relative. Suppose your product saves the average person 10 minutes a day. So what? 10 minutes a day x 365 days a year is 3650 minutes or 61 hours or 2.5 days. Still, none of these stats will stick. Give them the most relevant, powerful metric and try to relate it to something. “Using X product every day you could save 61 hours a year for anything your heart desires, that’s enough time to watch 7 seasons of The Office!”
Comment if you have any questions, best of luck!
Side note: If you are looking to have your pitch critiqued XLerate Laurier and the Golden Speakers run an incredible event every year specifically for that. Check out the event on Facebook and if you’re interested.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/209131782984395/
Sign up link: https://doodle.com/poll/iwpruqim92ecrit3