You walk up to the giant stage, and your slides encompass the screens around you. It is go time, and these next four minutes can be the difference between funding, partnerships, and connections, and walking away empty handed.
Yes, pitching is critical, and these lights-camera-action moments are happening more and more in a post-pandemic era. In fact, I will be in the audience of the Hult Prize 2022 Global Finals, the in-person celebration and “Dragon’s Den” pitch of this social entrepreneurship competition.
Helping the finalists prep, there were a few lessons that I learned as a female founder who pitched with other members of my team that I shared with them.
Team pitching is different than the solo stage, and here is how you can wow the audience with your team pitch:
Write the dang thing out.
When you are working as a team, you are as strong as your weakest part. I love seeing teams pitch because it shows a strength and an interpersonal dynamic that cannot be captured the same way in something like the team slide.
But, more people mean more moving parts.
Having a script or outline at least allows you to map out how each of you will work through the key parts in the pitch. Then, there will be no wasted time repeating each other or worse, forgetting something out entirely.
Practice your portion and nail it.
Shocker, I know.
Now, once you have your guideline of the script or bullet points, it is your job to OWN that section. You are the star of the show for that moment; you are the speaker. Your section is where are the soloist in this rock band. As a founder, you need to know your portion and practice, practice, practice. Then, review it with a timer and see how long you take.
This will allow you to present confidently, and if every team member knows their individual section, it creates a cadence in the presentation that is a one-two punch to the audience.
Be agile because the clock isn’t.
Most times during competitions, you are faced with a big clock counting down the time you have left. And, that is why you have practiced — and timed — your section as stated above.
Once you know your section inside and out, you are able to see how you speak in varying situations. Often times in a team pitch, one person may run short or another teammate runs over. You need to be ready for that.
In the moment, you should be able to ask yourself: If the person before me runs over, what sentence can I exclude or shorten to keep to pace?
Or, my teammate missed a point and is running early, how can I make the most of my time? Pauses? Picking up where he left off? Or adding that one extra descriptive sentence in to really hit home the point of our product?
You are a speaking unit, and not only are you responsible for your solo, but the whole orchestra has to perform a consistence piece — your succinct pitch.
Review with forward time and countdown time.
One of the most annoying things I faced in a pitch was when the clock counted in a different way than I practiced. It was like, if wait I speak for 37 seconds, what does that mean when the clock starts at 5:00 minutes?
You don’t want to be asking yourself these mental questions on stage.
So, how long is your pitch from start to finish, and how does this relate to the timer in a countdown way or count up?
These are easy calculations to map out. Put everyone’s individual speaking time down on paper, so they can see their timings forward and backward. (For example, I am 0–37, Jessie is 38–1:15, etc. as well as I am 5:00–4:23, Jessie is 4:23 to 3:46, etc.)
Know who is going to answer what questions.
This is key both in competitions as well as investor pitches. Individuals talking over each other dilutes your overall message, so in advance, know who will answer questions about respective fields like marketing, validation, IP, pricing, etc.
Often times, the individual who answers the themed questions follow suit to who speaks in that portion of the pitch. If Josh is introducing the business model and finances, most often — but not always — Josh will be the one answering the questions relating to these themes.
Questions can win and lose investors, judges, and the audience. Do not forget to review the answers and know who will be speaking them.
And remember to have fun.
Like any sport, in pitching, you win and lose as team. If someone messes up, brush it off and learn from it. No one person will win or lose your investment or competition.
If you nail it, celebrate everyone’s success!
No matter what level of startup development you are in, remember to have fun on stage because you are sharing the incredible story of your team’s business.