So you’ve entered a pitch competition. Now what?
Pitch competitions have long been a staple of the startup world. Industry lore tells us which pitch competitions began as practice sessions for founders before holding pitch meetings with potential investors. Now made infamous on broadcast stages like SharkTank, pitch competitions are an industry staple of the startup world and a hurdle most founders will have to meet and overcome during their startup journey. Whether founders pitch in a pitch competition, pitch to a venture capitalist, pitch to a bank, pitch through a grant, or pitch to a potential partner, pitching is an essential part of the founder journey and a feat every founder has to master.
In honor of our October Do You Fellowship pitch competition — sponsored by Prudential X Tiger Global and taking place during Newark Tech Week- we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you stand out from the rest and catch the eye of judges, investors, and any potential partners who may be watching.
Check out these tips and incorporate them into your pitch and pitch deck now:
Storytelling Is essential
How you weave the various intersectional aspects of your personal story, data, proposed business model, and overall opportunity is all part of your startup story…otherwise known as a pitch. There are many formulaic and proven ways to frame your pitch and deck. You can find some excellent examples of these below:
The most crucial aspect of any pitch, however, is to make a compelling argument as to why your solution is needed to solve a market gap/problem, why your business plan is the best and most lucrative way to solve it, and why you are the person to do it.
2. Use compelling data to create an equally compelling story
Data isn’t just a series of numbers. Your startup pitch data can be quantitative — and qualitative — measurements of your audience sentiment, market space volatility, industry opportunities, etc.
You probably already have hours of interviews with potential buyers or extensive market research reports on the state of your industry. The key is figuring out how to position those various data points into a compelling story.
Different kinds of market research can help you identify these data points and cultivate how to present your findings. Challenge yourself to explore such research on your product or services, target market, and industries through some of the following analyses:
· Audience Personas
· Landscape audits
· Competitive audit
· Brand analysis
3. Don’t humble your projections.
Women entrepreneurs moving into a male-dominated venture capital space come with an inherent amount of unconscious bias — one in which they receive just seven percent of venture capital. This is especially true for Latina and Black women founders, who received just 1% of funding in 2021. This unconscious bias has repercussions on how women engage with investors on a fundamental level. According to Sutin Yang, head of scale-ups at Virgin StartUp, “Investors tend to be more likely to interrogate a female founder’s business projections and ask questions around downside risk. As a result, female founders lower their business projections their valuation, and are “less ambitious in their pitch”.
What’s the lesson? Don’t be humble in your projections. There’s no need to pull an Elizabeth Homes and inflate your numbers. However, you shouldn’t undersell your company or how it can grow with you leading.
4. Be personable but professional.
Chances are, if you’re part of a pitch competition, you may not know the judges or investors in the audience. Learning how to build trust — and quickly — through both verbal and nonverbal communication skills — is essential.
Allison Shapira, who teaches “The Arts of Communication” at the Harvard Kennedy School, states in the Harvard Business Review that clarity, compassion, competency, connection, and consistency are five ways to establish trust with your audiences when communicating.
It is essential to think about what you will say — and how you will say it. However, according to Darlene Price, president of Well Said Inc., body language is an equally important component of any presentation or pitch:
“Body language can speak much louder than verbal communication. For instance, if someone shows a slumping posture or crossed arms, we are conditioned to assume they are tired or disinterested in speaking. If someone avoids eye contact, we’re wired to think it’s because they have something to hide. Neither of these are universal truths, yet we must pay attention to them; otherwise, people will perceive us negatively.”
You can focus on developing these elements of your public speaking skills by joining organizations like Toastmasters or working with a business coach.
5. Refine and Define
Having all your ducks in a row for a pitch competition means you’re thoroughly prepared and confident on multiple fronts, like public speaking and storytelling, knowing the data to answer any investor questions, and building a convincing argument around your business plan and projections. A startup pitch competition is a full flex of all your business muscles.
Like any good sport, you must practice, refine, and redefine your pitch to take it to the competition level. Expert Media Training advises you to practice your pitch in front of an audience, have people outside your company review it, and continue redrafting your pitch. You can check out their complete list of tips here.
Learning how to pitch — and perfecting your pitch is an inherent part of the entrepreneurial journey. Hopefully, the above tips will help you define your business storytelling style and enhance your ability to capture the attention of investors, partners, and potential buyers alike.
And if you’re interested in checking out what a real pitch competition is all about, be sure to join digitalundivided for our first-ever pitch competition at ___________ on _________ at ______p.m. More information to grab your free tickets here.
This article was sponsored by Prudential and Tiger Global