Perfecting the Pitch

13 December 2017
“As a wise man once said: ‘The best ideas come from somebody needing to scratch an itch’ – and I’m not feeling the itch.”

The atmosphere in the board room contracts as those assembled await the speaker’s next words, his appraisal already confirming the unspoken consensus.

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation. I don’t see how you can market your product because you haven’t been able to explain it to us clearly today. I have no idea what you actually do. And as for innovation, it sounds like an interesting proposition – I’m sure you know your industry well – but I’m not convinced that anyone really… cares about this.”

The faces around the table reflect a mixture of mild embarrassment and relief that the more outspoken among them has delivered his damning (but accurate) verdict.

“I’m afraid I must agree,” says another attendee. “Unlike my friend here I do think there’s some merit in your proposal, but your delivery was unconvincing. I don’t think anyone around this table would be confident to invest in your business.”

The entrepreneur nods and flushes, but ultimately thanks his critic – he knows the advice will be essential for his next big pitch. Fortunately for him, this is a test run – it’s Pitch Wednesday at Innovation Warehouse, a weekly opportunity to put your patter to the test and a crash course in how (and how not) to wow a room full of top investors. But it’s also a missed opportunity: these events can secure much-needed investment and widen your professional network.

Selling to the Pitch Wednesday audience comes with its own unique challenges, not least of which is that the pitcher must work to a strict time limit and cannot answer back during the feedback session. They must bite their tongue, swallow their pride and accept whatever the investors throw at them.

Pitchers get just five minutes to articulate their USP, five minutes Q&A and a further five to receive feedback. Investors are anonymous and do not advertise their sector specifics, but if the entrepreneur hits his or her mark, they may well get a follow up after the event. If not, well, they can always come back and try again.

As one Pitch Wednesday veteran puts it: “The five-minute time limit is tough – I’d love to have presented slower; been more articulate; elaborated on certain things and gone into more detail, but investors see three companies in 45 minutes – they don’t want to be spending more than an hour when, in fact, these companies might not be relevant to them.”

So, back to the old maxim: less is more. If your pitch is perfect, five minutes can fly by in a heartbeat leaving a room of eager, converted investors. Think and act positive; speak plain English and don’t use jargon; focus on your audience, not on your slides – look at your audience – and focus on the why, not the what.

But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to fail. After all, it’s better to fail often so you can succeed sooner.

If you’d like to participate in Pitch Wednesday, please contact the Innovation Warehouse team at investment@innovationwarehouse.org.