Michelle HammondFollow on twitter www.startupsmart.com.au
How to make the perfect pitch
Knowing how to pitch to an audience is one of the most important things an entrepreneur needs to know, particularly if they plan on raising capital from investors.
As the start-up scene becomes increasingly crowded, investors are becoming harder to impress, so the bar has definitely been raised when it comes to pitching.
One entrepreneur who understands the importance of the perfect pitch is Asaf Brukarz, who was recently awarded the Best Pitch prize at the Young Entrepreneurs Unconvention in Melbourne.
Organised by a group called The Entourage – which describes itself as Australia’s largest group of entrepreneurs and executives aged under 40 – the event was attended by some 400 people.
Brukarz succeeded in delivering the most compelling pitch of the event.
Brukarz is the founder of PropConnect, an online platform providing real-time information and streamlined communication for property developers, their staff and associated sales networks.
Along with Phaedon Stough, co-founder of Australian investment network Innovation Bay, Brukarz outlines his top tips to help you make the perfect pitch.
1. Treat it like a job interview
According to Brukarz, preparing to pitch is no different to preparing for a job interview.
“When you go for an interview, you prepare for all the questions they might ask you… [When you pitch,] be prepared for all of those possible questions,” he says.
“You’ve got to pitch as much as you can, as often as you can and to as many people as possible.”
“Whether it’s an elevator pitch or out at dinner with friends, you need to be able to tell people what it is you do – and get them interested in what you do – within 60 seconds.”
2. Tell a story
Brukarz says the pitch itself should be structured like a news story.
“You have to start off with a big, bold statement about who you are and how you’re going to change something,” he says.
“I started my pitch with a big statement that said, ‘PropConnect will change the property industry and make it more efficient’.”
Stough says you then need to outline what your product does, the market your product is addressing, the problem you are addressing, and how long it will take to get customer adoption.
“Lastly, [outline] how much you need and, most importantly, what you are going to spend it on and how far this will get you,” he says.
3. Solve a problem
“I think people need to understand that if you’re pitching a business idea, you’ve got to show that there is an actual need for what you’re going,” Brukarz says.
“Describe the problem – outline the problem you’re solving, how you will do it better than someone else and what makes you or your business special.”
“If you can’t get the other people in the room to understand, you will lose them for the rest of the pitch. Whoever is in the room, you must get them to relate back in some way to the problem.”
Stough agrees one of the common mistakes made by pitchers is that they talk in generalities, failing to demonstrate an understanding of the market and what the barriers to adoption might be.
“I see this time and time again – they see a problem [and] create a product to solve that problem,” Stough says.
“But [they] don’t clearly understand why there is a problem in the first place and what is needed to get customers or consumers to change behaviours to engage with their product.”
4. Tweak it
Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to pitching, Brukarz encourages entrepreneurs to tweak their pitch.
“It always depends on the audience – the level of sophistication and knowledge in a particular industry,” he says.
“With property professionals, I don’t have to describe the pain of the industry in other terms. I can be more direct.”
“But when you’re pitching in front of someone who doesn’t know the industry, and they ask a question, you need to be able to answer quickly and confidently.”
5. Get visual
According to Stough, visual aids are a critical part of pitching.
“They help condense complex problems beyond speech. Getting people or investors to understand the complex problem is half the battle,” he says.
But Brukarz says pitchers must be careful not to become over-reliant on visual aids.
“One of the things I noticed [with the other pitchers at the Young Entrepreneurs Unconvention] was there was way too much text on the screen,” he says.
“People were reading the presentation notes rather than looking at the actual pitcher.”
“Most of the slides in my pitch had one word or one image. That was key to keeping slides really, really short and succinct, and getting people to look at you.”
6. Be brave
While it can be tempting to stay frozen on the spot for the duration of a pitch, or enlist someone else to pitch for you, both are ill-advised.
“To stand out in front of a crowd, you need to be able to move around and know what you’re doing – command the attention of a room,” Brukarz says.
“The danger for new start-ups is no one will ever have the same passion that the original founders will have.”
“No one will be able to communicate that level of passion unless they have an equal level of involvement… I think no one’s going to be able to do it as well as the founder.”
Stough says for most investors, getting someone to pitch on your behalf is a huge no-no.
“It’s okay to get a partner or someone within the company, but for small, start-up-type companies it’s not really the idea that people invest in – it’s the person,” he says.
“That’s been my experience and that is why people like Dave McClure can do so many investments without due diligence – because he’s investing in the person, not the business.”
7. Have a laugh
“In the last slide of my pitch I had the headline, ‘Dragging the property industry kicking and screaming into the 21st century’,” Brukarz says.
“There’s a picture of a security guard dragging Julia Gillard into a car.”
“This [approach] can serve two purposes. It can help to get the audience on your side, but you do run the risk of appearing a bit too jovial.”
“There needs to be a balance between entertainment and humour, and serious hard faces.”
8. Keep it culturally-sensitive
“I deal with a lot of Asian clients, especially out of China and South East Asia,” Brukarz says.
“Business relationships there are on a different level – people don’t always understand why you’re adding humour to a presentation.”
“Research your audience and speak to as many people as possible. For example, would political humour be that acceptable to an Asian audience?”
“Limit your personal views and understand who the crowd is.”