Two minutes. You probably wait longer for your coffee at your local shop. Two minutes can seem like a very short time, unless you're on in the hot seat, facing four investors and an entire audience, asking for funding. At that moment, time goes by like lightning. Last month at a local pitch contest, I saw two presenters lose precious time when they lost their train of thought in the middle of their two minute pitch.
Here's how to succeed presenting when the pressure is on.
Graham Lawlor, creator of the Ultralight Startups pitch series in New York and Boston, told me the trend for pitch events is toward shorter pitches. "We get a big audience and tough VCs, so there's a lot of pressure for companies pitching."
Even if you've got coaching, its' not easy being up there, as Stefanos Missailidis, co-founder of event services marketplace Fiestah found out. Missailidis had participated in two previous pitch events with slides, and had been coached before the evening.
"I practiced a lot, talked in mirror, talk on the street, hitting on points. When I panned over to the panel instead of looking at audience, and made eye contact, and my mind went blank for a second," he said.
Then there was an awkward moment as Missailidis pulled out his phone, where he had notes. It took him a moment to find them, precious time in a period of only two minutes. I give Missailidis credit; it's scary doing a short pitch, and even scarier talking to an Inc. columnist about it.
"If I were to do it again, I would have had my notes in front of me as a guide and soon I wouldn't need notes," he said.
Says CEO coach McAdory Libscomb: "State the business opportunity in two minutes, and don't try to sell investors on how beautiful your baby is. If you don't get their attention in two minutes about how you're all making money together, you won't get to a further due diligence session."
Mac has several tips for presenters with limited time:
1. Don't talk about solving a problem.
Instead, clearly identify the market opportunity you intend to take advantage of, and build business around. If the investors are asking about the market opportunity, you're at a disadvantage because you're using their terms, their language.
2. Review the key factors for building the business.
In your two-minute pitch, you're auditioning to be a CEO in an investor's portfolio. CEOs are precise when describing their businesses and ideas. Don't try to convince the panelists that you've create the ultimate product, or try to get their approval. That is not what your pitch is for.
3. Keep to the essential elements.
Tell them, "I'm looking for X amount of money, this is what our business does, this is our go-to-market strategy, this is the competitive environment and here's how we're different. State the revenue streams you're generating, or going to create, and tell them milestones you've already completed. List a few down-the-road milestones, and tell them a little about your team and why they can get you there.
4. Be positioned for further questions.
If you can do everything above in a concise manner in two minutes, the panel will ask you product questions you want, and you can shine. If they're still asking how you are going to make money after your two minutes are up, you haven't done a great pitch.
How do you get ready for a quick pitch? Give your fellow entreprenuers tips in the comments.