Have you ever wanted to be on Shark Tank?

Now, you can.

Well, not really. But something close to it.

The popularity of ABC's Shark Tank has launched a whole new subset of events across the country where local entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pitch their business idea to investors and win funding, space in local incubators, and professional services. Most of these competitions begin with a submission packet, which often includes a business plan or professional statement.

From there, competitors are selected to present their ideas before a panel of judges. The final event is frequently tied to a fundraising event, raising money for the prize itself, a local charity, or the benefit of the local Chamber of Commerce.

How should you prep for a local Shark Tank style event? These five tips will help you get organized:

1. Polish your business plan until it shines

Most events begin with opportunities for you to submit a business plan or statement about your business idea. This, in some ways, can be the hardest portion of the contest. Anyone can submit their idea, and if you're new to entrepreneurship, it's hard to know what judges are looking for.

Read the contest rules carefully. Make sure the business plan you submit is complete and well-written. Your business idea will be competing with other names in the same niche; no one expects you to revolutionize a market your first time out.

Make sure to talk about your ideal customer, what problems they're facing, and how your product or service will help them solve it.

2. Research your Sharks

Local events may have one of the actual Sharks in attendance, or they may simply follow a similar format with local entrepreneurs and investors as judges. Either way, it's a good idea to research your judges before the event so you can target your pitch towards them.

Certain judges on the television show are known for being passionate about one type of product or another. If your product fits into that niche, you might successfully compare it to a product that the Shark has invested in before.

3. Practice your pitch until it sounds professional but not rehearsed

It can be tempting to memorize every word of your pitch, but that can make you sound like you're reading off cue cards: monotonous and repetitive.

Instead of writing out your pitch word-for-word, jot down the broad strokes of what you want to talk about. Note key phrases and statistics, but let yourself be creative with how you talk about your business idea. This will show your passion, and interest the panel.

If you have friends and relatives who are supportive of your idea, make them sit down and listen to your pitch. Once they agree you're doing well, move on to your less supportive relatives and friends. When you can keep them interested as well, you're ready to go.

4. Prepare your website for extra traffic

The national show is famous for crashing websites. While local events might not have such a dramatic effect on your visitors, it's always a good idea to be prepared. If your website is hosted on a shared host server--most of them are--then you might need to upgrade your plan for the month of the event.

Unless you're very familiar with network trafficking and are hosting your own website on your own servers, your best bet is probably to contact your host company, let them know what kind of traffic might be possible, and see if they feel like your current plan can hold the potential traffic.

5. You'll be caught off guard--don't panic

During judging, you'll be asked a question you didn't anticipate, and you'll get caught off guard. The most important thing is to not panic. Practice acknowledgment phrases like "That's a really good question" and "I'm glad you asked that" to give yourself a moment to take a deep breath and think before answering the question.

The judges probably aren't looking for a specific answer, but a sign that you can think under pressure. This gives them some insight into how you will operate in a high-pressure business situation.

These events are getting more popular every year: They connect investors and entrepreneurs while also bringing some positive attention to the local figures in your business community. Next time your Chamber holds an event, don't hesitate; send in an application and get funded!

Published on: Nov 8, 2016