How to Craft the Perfect Pitch

By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News

Crafting the pitch, photo licensed from Getty Image

Crafting the pitch, photo licensed from Getty Image

A good pitch can determine whether a startup lands money from investors to expand.

But few entrepreneurs know how best to pitch.

Texas State University’s Small Business Development Center held a special training session Wednesday afternoon at its Round Rock campus to help entrepreneurs titled “Pitching to Anyone: How to Own the Room.” It’s part of its Spectrum Series of events tailored to assist entrepreneurs.

The session provided tips on everything from how to dress to crafting the right pitch and how to make a video pitch.

The three keys to giving a great presentation are confidence, credibility and passion, said Jim Comer, Comer Communications.

“Fear gets in the way of being unique,” Comer said.

But individuality leads to likeability, he said. So it’s essential to have some techniques to get through a presentation. He said entrepreneurs should smile, maintain eye contact, talk naturally, use natural body language and just use their hands organically.

First off, confidence comes from expertise, he said.

“You’ve got to be the expert,” Comer said. “And credibility comes from anything you can do to build up yourself and your team in front of the audience without bragging.”

Passion is key, Comer said.

“We’ve all got natural resources that make us unique,” Comer said. “The person that your friends like that is the one you want to share with the audience.”

And lastly, don’t forget to smile that starts a presentation off right, he said.

“This is not a torture test,” Comer said. “They want you to succeed. The investors are dying to hear a good idea. Smile, enjoy it. They are on your side.”

The pitch must also make a few points well. Comer suggested entrepreneurs state the problem, provide the solution and show how it works with brevity and clarity and to use an analogy if possible.

“You’ve got to use language the audience understands,” he said. “Don’t use acronyms or technological terms.”

It’s also important to talk about your team and how they have the talent and experience to make the startup succeed, Comer said. And an entrepreneur’s pitch deck must show financials that are easy to read and understand and not pie in the sky, he said.

Eliminate all jargon like paradigm shift, tipping point, and eliminate all technical terms from the presentation, Comer said.

“Think of how the Pentagon would say it and do the opposite,” he said.

He also said to remember “A.T.O – Acknowledge the Obvious.” If something goes wrong during a presentation like the projector catches on fire, acknowledge it and then move on, he said.

“The investors will be as impressed by “grace under pressure” as by your idea,” he said. “However you respond to the unexpected – they are judging you.”

Everyone can be a great presenter if they just fight their fear and focus on their individuality.
To pitch through video, make your point clear, believe in your product, speak passionately and genuinely and stick to the point, said Scott Edwards of Edwards Media.

A crowdfunding video generally costs from $1,500 to $3,000, Edwards said. A video for a company’s website costs from $2,500 to $3,000, he said.

Texas State Small Business Development Center has a studio with cameras and other equipment for entrepreneurs to use once they have gone through training said Dick Johnson, senior technology commercialization advisor. It’s a great way to record a pitch video to see how entrepreneurs appear to potential investors, he said.

Ninety-three percent of any first impression is a visual one, said Jean LeFebvre with Panache Image.
Clothes communicate an image to people, LeFebvre said. Less gimmicks equals better communication, she said.

“You need to put thought into an outfit. It’s not an afterthought,” LeFebvre said. “The most common mistake is not getting dressed for the role you play.”

She advised entrepreneurs to wear classic clothing and use accessories sparingly to be trendy.

“Don’t wear athletic gear when you’re not working out,” she said. “Gym shoes belong in the gym.”
LeFebvre advised people to dress properly even when they run errands.

“At any time be prepared to meet with your potential bosses, your potential investors,” she said. “You want them to see you as a successful person.”

Peg Richmond and Paul Wright, technology commercialization advisors with Texas State Small Business Development Center, gave the top ten investor pet peeves entrepreneurs make when pitching their ventures.
They are:

#10. It’s not fiction writing – tell your story – not a fairy tale
#9. Trying to be someone you’re not.
#8. Reading or talking to your slides
#7. Making the audience connect the dots
#6. Not knowing your ask
#5. Inconsistent messaging
#4. Building suspense and holding nuggets till Q&A
#3. Your business elements don’t match
#2. Burying the headline
#1. Transactional v. Relational

On June 24, the Spectrum Series continues at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce with “The Art of the Deal” information from experts on how to close a deal including what a term sheet looks like.

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