How do I build a business pitch?
But Anna, how do I build a business pitch? I get asked a lot. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for building a good pitch. I learned it by trial and (a lot) of error. I’ll give you an example.
When I organised the Global Management Challenge in Ukraine, I had to look for sponsors. So I built different pitches and talked with companies from various industries. One of those industries was telecommunication. I had a meeting with two big telecommunication companies in Ukraine. I went to the first one, my pitch went great and they were extremely interested, but they had one question: “Are you talking to any of our competitors? Because if we do decide to sponsor you, we want an exclusivity contract.”
And of course I said 'no', even though I did have a meeting planned with one of their competitors. Everything was fine and I decided to email them with a follow up and my presentation. But you know that strange feeling that creeps up on you right after you hit send? I was sure I wrote the correct names and put in my materials but still something felt, you know, wrong. I checked and checked again and everything looked right. Until the moment I saw that I sent them the presentation that was meant for their competitors. So please, don’t double-, don’t triple- but quadruple-check if everything is correct and that you’re sending the right materials to the right people.
Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Here I have listed some great do’s and definite don’ts you have to keep in mind when you are making your business pitch. With these guidelines, I want to make sure you’re completely ready to blow people’s minds.
…think about your goals
What do you want to achieve with this pitch? What is your purpose? It’s very important that you have a goal before you start building your pitch. Do you want to attract investors? Or are you more looking for business partners? Setting a goal defines the way you make and deliver your pitch.
…understand the situation
Sometimes you have 20 minutes to present your business idea (when you’re really lucky), other times only the minute it takes your future investor to go from one meeting room to another. Understanding the context and situation gives you a feeling of how long this person can or wants to listen to you. Use your intuition. And most importantly, know when to stop talking.
…plan different types of pitches
Prepare variations of your pitch so you have the perfect version for different situations. The three main ones are the famous elevator pitch (45 secs - 1 min), a short pitch (3-7 mins), and a longer version (10 mins). If you have all three versions ready, you’re prepared for every kind of situation. And of course, make sure you put in the correct name of the company or people you’re pitching to if you want to avoid a situation like mine.
…think about problem, solution and experience
No matter how long your pitch is, always incorporate those three topics. Tell them the problem you experienced, how you are going to solve it and show the experience you have that will help do all of this. You don’t have to be a super expert in the field already, but you need to be able to highlight your interchangeable skills from past experiences.
…know who you’re pitching to
Get into the mind of the people you’re delivering your pitch to. What is their focus and expertise? Look them up on LinkedIn, Google them to read articles they have written or interviews they’ve done, know their focus. If you know their interests and background, you can add something extra to make the pitch feel personal. But don’t make it creepy by talking about how great you think the pictures look from their last family vacation.
…tell your story
Just because it’s a business pitch, doesn’t mean you have to make it boring and only talk about numbers. Influencing people’s emotions is a great persuasive technique, especially in a business environment. Maybe you have a great story on why you started this business? Or how you and your business partner met? It shows that you are human and not just a business machine.
…use some humour
Humour opens up the conversation, and shows your ability to adapt. Just make sure that it’s natural and organic. Don’t force weird jokes on your audience, you’re not a stand-up comedian. But, sometimes tough moments provide the opportunity to improvise and impress and it can be much better than anything you rehearsed.
I can’t emphasise this enough. Don’t just go to the meeting, give your presentation, leave and then sit around and wait. Email them, connect on LinkedIn, call them, send them your presentation or other marketing materials. Make sure they don’t forget about you. It shows that you are determined and truly believe in what you presented to them. If you don’t follow up, all your efforts were just a waste of time.
…lose yourself in the details
Speak strategically and don’t talk too much about the technical details of your product. Too many numbers can be overwhelming, or worse, boring. Stick with the important facts and figures and present them in a way that shows you are confident and have expertise.
…waste their time
Prepare direct questions for the specific person you are speaking with if it’s really necessary. You don’t want to waste the time of a top executive with questions you can ask their assistant.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Improvisation has its place, but it comes after a million practice rounds. Just because you know your product and company doesn’t mean that you can make things up on the spot. Prepare your presentation, rehearse several versions, time each one, and create different questions (including some tough and uncomfortable ones) and practice your answers.
…forget to introduce yourself
Don’t just talk about your company or business idea. It’s just as important to introduce yourself. Your investors want to know the person they might give their money to. It doesn’t have to be long. I always give a '1,2,3' about myself. If you use this format, it helps everyone and creates a sense of structure that is easy to follow.
…just use words
Of course, you have to give a great presentation and what you say obviously has to make sense, but don’t just stand there and not move. Body language tells more than words. Be expressive, be enthusiastic, be positive, and be direct - look at who you are speaking to with intention.
Some pitches are amazing, and some are memorable trash. And believe me, the latter you will remember for a veeeeery long time (they will be shared with friends over a glass of wine!). But it’s okay because lessons are learned and pitches are improved. Go, practice, and PITCH!