The Art of Pitching™

by Tanja

Startup Know-How

4. September 2018

If we can call ourselves experts in something, it’s definitely pitching.

Over the last 10 years, we saw and feedbacked over 1.000 startup pitches of all kinds and forms. We listened to the challenging questions of our judges and learned what kind of information they are interested in. We closely watched our audience, experiencing first-hand how much entertainment a pitch should contain. And we received thousands of pitch decks, quickly realizing the most important factors for success.

As our main goal as an organization is to help entrepreneurs succeed, Georg, our Managing Partner, and Chief Pitch Officer is teaching his own The Art of Pitching™ workshop to all our Startup Live Program participants, sharing our know-how. Here are his five most important lessons when it comes to pitching your startup:

1. Pitch with purpose

You know those founders who take part in every single startup competition in your region? Every time the chance comes along, he or she grabs a microphone and pitches the same story you’ve heard a thousand times before. You keep asking yourself “why are they still doing this?”.

Unfortunately, many founders don’t have a clear purpose on why they’re pitching in the first place, so they just got out there and do it as often as they can. While this is not completely wrong, it’s kind of like going on a hunt with a minigun, blindly shooting as many bullets as you can, trying to hit anything.

Successful founders, by contrast, operate like sharpshooters. Before they go out on a stage, they always ask themselves the question “Why am I here today? What’s my goal? What do I want to achieve with this pitch?”

Maybe they’re fundraising, thus pitching for investment. Maybe they’re hiring, so they’re pitching to attract talent. Or perhaps they want to sell their product, in which case their pitch is more like a marketing one.

Don’t ever go on a stage just for the sake of pitching. Always think about the purpose of your pitch first and set yourself tangible goals for it.

2. Start with a bang

You’ve probably heard this before, but during the first couple of seconds of your pitch, the audience will decide, if they continue to listen to you or not. So the first words that come out of your mouth are crucial to the success of your whole pitch.

Still, a lot of founders decide to open with a classic “Hi, my name is Thomas Müller and I am here to present my idea today.” Opening lines like that don’t generally grab attention. At all.

If you really want to have people on the edges of their seats, start with something unusual. This could be anything from going on stage wearing a yellow hard-hat at an Industry 4.0 event to turning the lights off and playing ultrasound noises while pitching a gadget for pregnant women.

Another great way to get the attention of the audience early on is by letting them actively participate by asking questions. Just be sure to pick a question where you know you’ll get the answers you need…or have a backup plan.

I once saw a startup where the pitcher started with the question “How many of you have texted while driving a car?”. Only a few hands went up, so he immediately followed that up with “Come on, be honest guys!” Only when almost every hand went up, did he announce that this is exactly the problem his startup was solving.

3. Talk about relevant stuff

Even though a guided pitch structure can greatly help first-time entrepreneurs and pitchers in some respects, what’s even more important is: having a clear-cut goal for your pitch. Because your pitch can have different goals each and every time you give it, you should also adapt the content accordingly. Investors and VCs are more likely to be interested in the numbers and metrics of your business than different product features. On the other hand, you’d never present a detailed financial plan when your goal is to sell your product to potential customers.

In both cases, though, your job is not to explain every single detail about your business or product. Rather, it’s to raise enough interest to actually achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself.

It’s not about what you want to tell, but what others need to hear.

4. People want to hear stories

Everybody talks about storytelling and  we could write a whole essay about it. But instead, we leave you with this clip from one of the best storytellers ever seen. If you want to learn anything about storytelling, just watch this video.

5. Throw out your hook

Imagine you deliver an amazing pitch which is 100% tailored to your audience and aligned with your goals. You could still ruin the whole thing by ending on a vague note like ‘thank you for your attention.’ Don’t assume the people you want something from will automatically know what to do. They won’t.

It’s your job to tell them what you want them to do directly to their face. While doing so, never give them options. If you do, they won’t take any of them. So whenever you throw out your hook at the end of your pitch, make sure to be as precise as possible. Give them a benefit and never give them options.

If you want to learn more about the ‘Art of Pitching’ and take your startup to the next level, join one of our upcoming Startup Live programs.