Last month, my startup graduated from the 500 Startups Accelerator Program. Our demo day pitch was recognized by Venturebeat, ListHunt, and Forbes as one of the top performances. I'm not saying this to brag in any way. I share this with you because by reading this you can become a great presenter, even if you hate public speaking. You don't have to be talented or have amazing numbers to have a great pitch--a few tips can make anyone be a standout.
Our company was not among the top companies in terms of growth during our cohort. For a majority of the program we were struggling to release our product. In fact, we were one of the earliest companies accepted into the program. So how did we get so much notoriety on demo day? That, my friends, is what I'm going to teach you below.
The points I've listed are the highlights of how our startup was able to have a compelling pitch without having the best numbers. Use these tactics in your next accelerator pitch, and I promise you'll leave investors drooling.
If you'd like to see the tips in action, you can check out the pitch here that I will be referring to.
1. Use humor right from the beginning
In the first 3 seconds of my pitch, you here someone yell "I love you AJ," followed by me saying "I love you too, follow me on Twitter." This was completely staged. The person who yelled out was my Head of Business Development, and I had planned my response well beforehand.
Why did I go through all the trouble to do this? The reason is you need to get attention right from the start of your presentation to stand out. With over 40 pitches and me being second to last, I knew most investors were going to sleep. The standard way that accelerators teach you to get investors excited is to shout out growth numbers right from the start. Good advice, but when every company does it, it gets redundant.
Instead, do something funny and throw in small tidbits in the rest of your presentation. You'll notice once I open with a joke, I drop another one at :25 and another 2:35. Fit in small jokes like these throughout your pitch, and you'll get the audience in an upbeat mood right from the get go.
2. Describe your solution, not the product
In a short pitch, it takes way too long to go through your entire product. This is the common mistake technical founders make when they pitch. They focus on the features their product has, not the solution to the problem.
Throughout my entire pitch, I only show a screenshot of our product one time at the end. It's a simple menu screen, that is not meant to explain the features of our app in anyway. The entire explanation of our solution is done through 1:15-1:50. Not once do I show a picture of our product. All I do is talk through the solution in a way that anyone can understand. This is much more efficient than focusing 3 minutes on features, and it makes it easier for your audience to follow along.
3. Throw in your traction early
Everyone has some type of traction. It's all about finding the most compelling growth metrics of your company and letting investors know those facts as soon as possible. In seconds :8 to :13, you'll notice I put our traction right into the introduction. This is a fundamental lesson we learn at 500 Startups. Always lead with the traction you have.
While I differed by starting with a joke, once I got the audience to laugh I used the energy to highlight our milestones. This pulls the audience in further, and will help get their attention early on in the pitch. The other method many people use is to hold off on traction until the end of their pitch. Reason being is that the investors will forget your traction by the end.
To solve this, say your traction at the beginning and then review it at the end. From 2:53 onwards I repeat my traction and add to it all the way to the end, sandwiching everything else in between two traction points.
4. Close slowly
From 3:08 to the end of the pitch you'll notice I pause a lot more between my words. This is to build a final effect for the end of my pitch. Here's a funny way to test this out. Make up any kind of ending to your pitch and rehearse the entire pitch to your friends. You'll notice that when you slow down at the end, your friends will always pay more attention. It doesn't matter what was said, all that matters is you slow down.
Closing your pitch slowly is one of the most important lessons in pitching that most people ignore. To do this properly, you need to first matter your pitch to a point where you don't need to think about the words. Once that's accomplished, playing around with pauses becomes quite easy. The power of the pause is what sets the difference between average speakers and memorable ones.