Your ability to inspire is the single most important factor in determining the success of your pitch. Either you truly excite your investors or plunge them into eternal tedium as you drone on like everyone else.
Statistics show that most venture-backed startups will fail, so the odds are stacked against you. However, you can beat the odds by crafting an attention-grabbing pitch that puts you ahead of the pack and wins the funding you need.
Here are 6 essential tips that will give your pitch that crucial edge.
1. Craft a Compelling Story.
If you focus on delivering hard data at the expense of an exciting story, your audience will switch off because business isn’t only about facts, it’s also about feeling. As much as we like to believe humans are rational, decisions are mostly based on emotion rather than reason. This means you must tell an epic story that triggers positive emotion in your investors. And you do this by detailing how much money your product will make them within the next five years - and which better be enough to make them rich or they’ll move onto someone more ambitious.
You can craft a compelling story by answering these questions:
1. Who is the hero of your story?
2. What is the hero’s problem or need?
3. Why is it so important that you solve their problem?
4. How exactly will you solve the hero’s problem?
5. How will you do this better than anyone else?
6. What is the exciting future in store for the hero once their problem is solved?
7. What opposing forces could put your hero’s journey into serious doubt?
8. How will you overcome these obstacles?
Once you answer these questions clearly, and sprinkle in a few sexy metrics, you have the beginnings of a solid story, one that will create all the drama and excitement necessary to turn investors’ heads your way.
2. Tell The Story Like You Mean It.
Now that you have your killer script, you must tell it with conviction. Otherwise your words, no matter how well crafted, will fall flat. And, sadly, most pitches tank due to a lifeless delivery. As I said before, humans are not rational. They care more about how you say what you say than the actual content. In fact, over 90% of persuasion success has nothing to do with your words at all and everything to do with your body language and ability to elicit positive emotion in others. This is where actor training is extremely useful. The best actors bring their scripts to life. They inject passion into what they say so you believe their every word and want to follow them on their journey. As an entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily need to learn your script by heart. However, it is crucial that you too tell your story with every fibre of your being so that people buy into you.
And the only way to do this is to show how much YOU believe in what you are saying. There is absolutely no substitute for self-belief. People instinctively know when you’re faking it and when you’re being real. Always aim for the latter.
Having the guts to show how much you care about what you’re doing is an extremely admirable trait. It makes a statement about who you are – someone who will make their dreams happen with or without investors’ help. When you have conviction, investors will more likely want to be a part of your success story.
3. Keep it Simple.
Next, make sure your language is kept simple. The art of being simple is difficult. Yet, simplicity is the only way to ensure your messages not only land but also take hold in people’s imagination. As Tom Hardy’s character in the movie Inception says:
“You need the simplest version of the idea in order for it to grow naturally in your subject’s mind. It’s a very subtle art.”
If you’re in the habit of delivering overly complex data along with fussy slides, then stop. You’ll overwhelm people, because if you can’t explain what you do in a few simple terms and visuals, it will sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your listeners will drift. So, cut the linguistic fat and distill your pitch down to its bare essentials. Sometimes even a single word will convey more meaning than a 100. Brevity is power. The less you say the better.
4. Rehearse Rehearse Rehearse.
Practice your pitch over and over till you know it inside out and can speak it with spontaneity. No actor would dream of setting foot on a stage without having rigorously rehearsed their material. But, unlike an actor, you don’t need to get the words exactly right. It’s much better for an entrepreneur to sound authentic and conversational than like a scripted robot. However, you must rehearse how you will handle the inevitable pressure as you speak your words. Through rehearsal, we practice facing the very fear public speaking engenders. This includes rehearsing how you will navigate difficult audiences and tricky objections. Think of every possible question that could trip you up and rehearse answering in a calm and assertive manner. With practice, you’ll start to look like a serious contender on top of your game. Better still, if you dare to be playful, even in the most contentious moments, you’ll come across as a supremely confident person. Contrast that to a founder who clings to their script reciting it word for word for fear of making a mistake. They appear weak, as though the slightest obstacle could knock them over - like a fragile tree in a high wind This hardly inspires faith in their ability to lead a company. So, rehearse, relax and let yourself play. Because, when you do, you’ll look and sound more solid.
5. Stand Tall in The Eye of The Storm.
On pitch day, trust in the knowledge that you have done everything you possibly can to hone your craft. Now, all you need do is forget your prep and simply go for it. A thrilling pitch is founded in your capacity to step boldly into the arena, stand tall in the eye of the storm, face your fears and stick to your guns. So, play all in, speak with spirit and show your investors that you’re a force to be reckoned with rather than a minion who cowers in the wings. Because, when the heavens rain down and business gets tough, the investor needs to trust in your ability to pull through and make your ideas happen no matter what. You’ll help yourself to this end when you care less what anyone thinks. Some people won’t rate you whatever you do. Ignore them.
6. Be unique!
And, most importantly of all, embrace your individuality. In business, where most people try to copy others, your uniqueness could be the high-grade weapon that turns the game in your favour. So, trust your own instincts. Don’t follow some prescribed recipe to delivering the perfect pitch, as that will merely turn you into a dull pitching robot. In fact, don’t even listen to me. The best ammo you could possibly have is to be fully and audaciously you. This means to trust yourself and your unique spontaneous responses in any high-pressured scenario. With self-trust, you’ll be able to seize the stage, leap into the unpredictability of the moment and face the danger necessary to win. Only then will you move from droning on like everyone else with the same mediocre spiel to actually inspiring your audience and pitching like the badass you really are!
As Walter White from Breaking Bad memorably puts it: