Drafting a final pitch 101

Jul 10 2013

As our team sent out invitations for pitch day, which is roughly a month away, it became clear that we actually needed to start planning our pitch. As college students, we know waiting until the last minute can lead to sloppy presentations, and we want our pitches to reflect the amount of effort we have put into these projects. Although we do not have final prototypes yet, the time has come to begin crafting final pitches.

Knowing this, we began to think about everything that we would need in order to get the results we wanted. The best place to start for us was our past pitches. By documenting each version of our elevator pitch up to this point, we had a good starting point to know what worked and what fell flat.

In addition to documenting our pitches, we have documented the advice and questions that have accompanied each and to whom it was presented. This process functioned similar to user testing. Though our sample size was small, like it is with user testing, it showed us where our successes and problems were.

However, our actual pitches will be much longer and require more information. But it’s not something you can just jump into. Instead, we sifted through numerous sites and videos to find the best practices for building this type of pitch.

After examining your previous pitches, the best place to turn is your marketing and business plans. Before you can actually make a pitch, you have to know what you actually can pitch, and the best source for this information is found in other pitch-like documents. If done correctly, these two documents along with a few other resources can give you most of the information you need.

However, you don’t need all of this information for your pitch necessarily. It probably wouldn’t fit anyway. And your audience may not care about certain aspects of it. This is why the next step is critical: defining your audience.

We had heard it from our executive director and some of our guests already. The people in the audience will care about different parts of your project depending on their background. A businessman may care about your revenue projects and market size, but someone from academia may focus more on your research. It also helps to have background on your audience if it is small enough. If you’re pitching to two venture capitalists, it behooves you to know what they have already invested in and why they’ve invested in such ways. Then, you can find what makes them tick and what truly catches their interest.

At this point, you can begin deciding what you want to include. Rather than just trying to pick out the aspects you think fit best and squeeze them in, you can look to prioritize all of the points you pulled from your business and marketing plan. This helps you determine what your audience truly wants to hear. After you’ve prioritized your points, your team can actually decide what will fit into your given timeframe, and you have a list of priorities to work from should you need to lengthen or shorten your presentation later.

At this point, your team can actually begin thinking about more of the logistical and visual elements of your pitch. For example, you can determine how the information should be presented. Whether it’s a slideshow, Prezi, or no visual at all, your content should dictate which platform you use to present. If the message doesn’t fit the medium, you will not keep your audience’s attention.

Ultimately, the best thing to remember when constructing a pitch is that your goal is to get to the Q&A. While it is critical that you don’t rely on someone asking specific questions, it is important that your pitch is compelling enough to pique interest. If you get to the end and nobody has any questions, that’s a sign that people are disinterested.

Other tips we learned for pitching:

  • Use the problem/solution format: give your audience a simple explanation of what problem you are solving and how you are solving it.
  • Make it tangible: use screenshots of your prototypes to express your ideas clearly (side note: ending your pitch by allowing them to see a physical prototype is a great way to avoid a “crash landing.”
  • Tell a story: by telling a story, you humanize your problem and make your audience relate to it. This is also a simple way to include info about market size and stats that show that the problem is large scale issue and not just your pet peeve.
  • Baseball teams only have one pitcher, and so should you. If you use more than one person to pitch, you can easily overload your audience and repeat the same info. Repetition and pile on effects are both easy traps to fall into with multiple pitchers. (However, having an expert explain something extremely technical might be useful in certain scenarios).

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