Perfect the Pitch
Speaking in public is tough. Presenting to others who are evaluating your business is tougher. Making a competitive presentation when money is on the line is brutal.
In April, I was a judge in the 6th Annual Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition. It is conducted by one of our community partners, Queens Economic Development Corporation. Below are 7 basic lessons – which the 3 winners of the Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition knew – and you should consider when making a pitch for your small business.
Competitions for funding are few and far between, but there are plenty of scenarios when you will be required to present your business. You will need to pitch to potential employees, investors, lenders, business partners and customers.
· Know Your Audience: Customize your presentation to the audience. Your pitch in a business plan competition will differ from the pitch you give to an investor. The business plan judges look for a well-researched idea that will benefit the local economy, but with conservative returns. An investor looks for huge returns, and will accept more risk. Customize the pitch accordingly.
· Cover the Basics: Don’t assume that the audience knows your industry. At a minimum, there should be no doubt in the listeners’ minds that you answered the following questions: What is the product and service? How much progress you have made towards launching the business? What is the problem you are solving? Who is your target market? How do you plan on reaching them? What is your marketing strategy? Who are your competitors? How are you better? What are your costs? Why do you need funding? Who is your team and what relevant experience and knowledge does everyone bring to the table?
· FAQ’s: After you’ve covered the basics, you need to anticipate the types of questions that you will be asked. Be able to explain all financial assumptions, pricing strategies, competitive analysis, major costs, marketing strategies and other components that you think require a more detailed explanation. Have additional slides ready with answers to questions that you expect to be asked.
· Don’t let Technology beat you: Go into the presentation knowing your environment. Will you have internet access? Have a backup copy of your presentation on a flash drive and print handout slides in case the computer crashes. If you have limited time, every minute counts. Don’t waste it struggling with the computer.
· Simplicity: With a limited amount of time, focus on what matters most. Tell your story, get your idea across, tell how you are going to do it, and why you are the best. Keep your slides simple as well. Trying to include too much information will lead to a confused message.
· Sell yourself: Tell your personal story of how you got to this point. How did you come up with the idea? Your passion and excitement should shine if you are able to explain the opportunity and your game plan for making it happen. A heart-warming tale is not a substitute for a good plan, but it certainly complements a good one.
· Practice: You probably are going to be nervous and that makes sense. All you can do is be as prepared and confident as possible. Practice your pitch in front of friends, family members and anyone willing to listen. Listen to feedback, be flexible and keep improving.
Brad Seader is the Director of the in Queens. If you have a question or comment for Brad, drop him a note below. And, please share his blog entry with your colleagues on Facebook and Twitter.