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Learning How to Pitch

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by Startacus Admin

Last week, Your New Crew Founder Gemma wrote her first guest post for Startacus on her lessons learned on her startup journey. Ths week Gemma is back with a new article for Startacus on the art of pitching how to pitchcompetitions...

"Life’s a pitch – Perfect the most valuable tool you have as a startup founder!"

I have learned and am still learning a lot as I near the launch of my startup Your New Crew but one of the most valuable things that I have learned is how to pitch! You may not realise it but from the first time you share your idea you are pitching and trying to persuade people to buy into your business. If you have never pitched before (or think you haven’t!) then I have put together some of my pitching tips and lessons learned, I hope they help!

Pick a time limit

Most of the time when you are asked to pitch you will have a strict time limit to work to and this is actually a great thing! I’ve done 30second, 90second and 5 minute pitching competitions in the past and I couldn’t have done the longer pitch justice without first having done the other two. My advice would be to set yourself a 30 second limit (be strict!) and summarise your business idea into those 30 seconds. You will quickly realise what’s important to say and what is jargon or waffle, which leads to…

Know your audience

Your pitch should be led by who it is you are pitching to e.g. a potential customer, investor or a new face at a networking event. For example if you are pitching to a would-be investor you will need to highlight the revenue streams for your idea but a potential customer should hear about the major benefits to them and their organisation.

Talk and listen – to yourself!

Once you have scribbled down/meticulously typed out your pitch it is really useful to record and listen back to yourself, so use your phone/computer’s recording app and chat away. Using this approach also helps you to get your pitch correct to the second. Some good questions to ask when listening back to yourself are: do I sound confident? Do I have a good tone i.e. Sounding monotone=baaaad! Do I cover the major points? What else could the person I am pitching to ask me/want to know? If you do sound monotonous then a) it could be down to nerves so breathe and b)Smile! It is very hard to sound monotonous when you smile, smiling helps to relax you and it is much easier to relate to somebody who is smiling (i.e. it can help your pitch go down well). Finally, by listening back to yourself you are helping yourself to memorise your pitch – much better than staring at a cue card!

Know your stuff

You may have the world’s best pitch and have got your audience interested but what if they ask you a question? Can you answer them? When I have a pitch to do I try to think about everything that the person I am pitching to could ask me, I especially focus on the questions that I don’t want to be asked, the awkward, the nasty and the technical. It’s surprising how by facing these questions down in practice they actually become the questions you WANT to be asked because they show how well you know your company!

Compete and get feedback

Taking part in pitching competitions is a great way to hone your skills and hear what other people think. NB pitching to your mum does not count, she will not give you honest feedback! Another benefit of these competitions is you get to hear how other people pitch, what questions get fired at them and how they stand out. I once pitched in a competition where one guy sang his pitch whilst playing guitar – impressive! He stood out and he won.

I hope that these pitching tips are useful and give you the confidence to get involved in the next pitching competition you see! I will finish by sharing Richard Branson’s top tip for startup pitches which he says is, keep them short and keep them memorable – just like the guy with his guitar!

Gemma Pirnie (@MissGHP) is the founder of Your New Crew, a service for graduates/young professionals relocating to a new city for work. Your New Crew introduces members to their new city and new people by organising unique events in stand-out venues around the city. Your New Crew is launching in Edinburgh and Glasgow this September. See for more information.

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Published on: 9th June 2013

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