Pitching your startup is like refining your online profile: You have limited space to convey a lot of information, and first impressions are everything. The same is true when promoting your business ideas to investors. Make every moment count when it comes to refining your pitch.
Here are my tips:
Know Your Audience. A pitch and accompanying materials should be adjusted for each audience. If you are presenting at a local pitch competition like Innovation Louisiana’s BioChallenge, research the judges on LinkedIn so you can understand how their experience might shape their questions, and think about why past winners were successful. For a presentation to potential investors, understand their investment strategy: Are they seeking high growth and an early exit? A long-term partnership? Your commitment to staying local? If you are speaking to a general audience, be thoughtful about how you explain technology and avoid jargon.
The best pitches are narrowly tailored to their audience, and thoughtfully anticipate questions.
Don’t Ignore the Room. You are being judged from the moment you enter the venue. Don’t get so focused on your presentation that you forget that important connections with potential advisors, investors and connectors are made by working the room before and after. Make yourself visible and easily accessible to these opportunities.
This year’s winner of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week’s Big Idea, Ready Responders, wore on-brand bright green safety vests, and finalist clothing brand Saint Hugh had their team wearing their fashions. While this strategy won’t work for every startup (especially in the life sciences), keep in mind that your pitch starts before and continues long after your presentation. Stay approachable and professional to make a good impression.
Tell a Story. Tell your story with a beginning, middle and end. How did your idea come to be? Where is it now? Where is it going? Great ideas identify a gap in the market and aim to fill that gap.
You can express that with a bunch of graphs or narratively. Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week’s most recent PitchBR winner, Lubricity Labs, has an easily accessible story: Chemist dad trying to tame his daughter’s frizzy hair succeeds by inventing a natural solution in his kitchen.
Digestible and memorable stories like these are more easily explained and rallied around. If you are in a high tech space, it might take time and advice to effectively message your idea, but it will be time well spent.
Know Your Deck, Cold. Once you know the time limit for your presentation, revise your slide deck accordingly. Your 30-page PowerPoint for a six-minute pitch is asking for trouble. You will be on the stage on slide six still introducing your team when time is called. Practice adjusting your regular presentation to fit within the required time.
Also, remember that every fact and statistic on your deck is fair game for questions. Make sure you fully understand every word so you are not thrown off by unexpected questions about sections you were not planning to cover (another reason to edit your deck).
Finally, consider the benefits of hiring a graphic designer to refine your presentation for branding, consistent fonts, and thoughtful use of graphics, color and sizing.
Pitching is a nurtured talent, not an innate skill, and successful pitching requires constant practice.
About the author: Noah Kressler co-chairs Baker Donelson’s Louisiana Life Sciences and Technology Practice and is a leading lawyer representing emerging companies in New Orleans. He regularly advises public and private companies across numerous industries, including healthcare, life sciences, food services, finance, hospitality, retail, technology and entertainment and media. He may be reached at (504) 566-5207 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is brought to you by Ragusa Consulting and Pollo Con Leche, sponsors of the Silicon Bayou Startup Showcase. The Showcase will take place on November 15 at The Shop at the CAC.