Whether or not people decide to give you money — whether you’re talking about investors or customers — begins with your pitch.
In short, if you can’t tell people what your product does, what problem it solves and who is going to use it, the odds of your company getting cash are pretty low.
But what if I have an amazing, revolutionary product? If you can’t convey the information about that product to the public, then you’re not going to get far.
But what if I’m not a good public speaker? The reality is, while a few people actually are naturally gifted orators, most people aren’t. Just because you’re in the majority that aren’t born speaking like Churchill doesn’t excuse you from having to give a good pitch. Here’s the secret: Good pitches take preparation and practice.
You know that whole “I’ll just speak off the cuff” thing? That doesn’t work for a pitch. The whole “But I already know what I’m going to say in my head”? That’s great if the investors are going to be listening to your pitch via your thoughts and not actually in words spoken aloud. (For the record, if you are pitching a product that can make that happen, you are totally going to get funding and probably become a billionaire. When that happens, please consider investing in us.)
Now the truth is pitching can seem daunting. It can be intimidating. But those are easy obstacles to overcome – especially when you have an awesome product like we do that doesn’t require a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors to sell it.
In order to improve our pitches here at 7 Generation Games, we’ve been working on both the preparation and practice parts. While going to a panel or two on the topic of pitching is definitely useful when starting out, we’ve found the best way to improve is by forcing ourselves to get out there and actually pitch (either in settings where you can get feedback or where you’re in front of investors) as well as checking out other people’s pitches.
Here’s why each one is beneficial:
Getting out there and pitching: Every time we pitch 7 Generation Games, the pitch gets better. It gets stronger. It gets tighter. We are able to better convey what we have identified as the key points about the company. Practice – not matter what you’re practicing – leads to better performance.
That’s the whole reason people practice doing things. When it comes to software development, it’s about iterative improvements. Pitching is the exact same way.
Plus, you’ll find you find you need to hone different versions of your pitch from the 30-second elevator pitch (which determines whether a person wants to hear more or will just walk away) to the 20-minute or longer presentation pitch to everything in between. Sometimes, you’ll be giving a formal pitch with a full PowerPoint deck. Sometimes, you’ll be pitching to your potential customers like we did at NIEA last week.
Pitching to actual people allows you to get feedback as well. Just like you solicit feedback from your users, you should solicit feedback from the people who are hearing your pitch. That could be as simple as listening to what people say after you pitch – what questions are being asked? If the same question comes up again and again or if it’s a general question, you should look to incorporate the answer into your pitch.
There are also groups where you can go to practice your pitch. Local to 7 Generation Games, there is a group called Santa Monica New Tech. We pitched there a few months back. It’s not so much a group of investors, but a group of other entrepreneurs who will give you feedback and ask the kind of questions you should be prepared to answer when you meet with investors.
Seeing other people pitch: This effort is more overlooked than it should be. Getting out there and seeing other people pitch can be both educational and inspirational (in ways you may not even expect).
First of all, you can see how different pitches are done: elevator pitch competitions, fast pitch (3-5 minute) competitions, full-length pitch presentations, pitches with a deck, pitches without a deck. There are a lot of different types of pitches. You can listen to the feedback judges/investors/the audience give and think about how you would answer those questions or hit on those topics in your pitch.
You’ll be amazed by the spectrum the companies that people are pitching span – not just in terms of industry, but also development. For a company like us, seeing that we have an actual working and tested and early commercial product makes us realize how far we’ve come when we see a person pitching a company that’s really only a concept. On the flip side, if you’re just a concept, seeing fully-formed companies pitching can show you where you need to be.
There are some people out there giving amazing pitching. Watch them and learn from them. Try to analyze what makes those pitches so standout and see how you can incorporate that into your presentation.
There are some average pitches. These are the ones where you’ll notice things like the person says “um” every two seconds or where they try to play a movie in their deck and it doesn’t work. It’s a lot easier to pick up on things other people might do subconsciously and ask yourself, “Am I doing that?”
At a recent pitch night I attended, every person got up and started their pitch with “I’m not a good public speaker, but here goes” or some variation of that idea. Basically, they were setting the audience up to expect very little of them – basically saying, “I’m not going to be good at this…” Who doesn’t start to automatically tune out the minute someone says that? You want to start your pitch off with something that sets the tone as to “This is going to be the greatest pitch in history!”
And there are some terrible pitches. At first, it might not seem like you could get a lot out of watching a person give an awful presentation – but you’re wrong. Here’s why: It makes you think, “Wow, maybe I shouldn’t be so nervous about this whole pitching thing after all. I mean I’m not going to be that bad.”
And when you’re pitching your company, having confidence is good thing to have.