When you're raising capital, a great startup pitch can make or break your funding efforts. I've heard thousands of pitches over the years, given quite a few of my own, and spoken to hundreds of entrepreneurs about their experience with raising capital. What I've noticed is a pattern that emerges again and again: the founders who get funded are the ones who use every rejection to improve their pitch.
Just as the best businesses are the product of many failures along the way, the best pitches are born out of many bad pitches that came before. The entrepreneurs who give these pitches take constructive criticism to heart, constantly reworking their slide deck and tweaking their delivery until they have a truly outstanding pitch that investors respond to.
Even if you think you already have a great pitch, there are some really helpful strategies you can use to inspire investors and customers to take action. Drawing on my own experience and feedback from fellow entrepreneurs, here are proven strategies to deliver a pitch that resonates.
Unlock your most compelling narrative.
People love a compelling story, but they'll quickly lose interest in a boring one. If your pitch tells the wrong story about your company, you'll probably have a hard time keeping your audience's attention.
"I think you first need to determine your story," says Tony Leonard, founder of nurseVersity and versityU. "Is it traction, or technology, or maybe it's your team? While all of these are important, one will shine brighter, and that's the focus."
Try to find the one aspect of your company that's best at drawing in listeners, and build your pitch around this narrative. If you're not sure which angle to pursue, try asking other people for their opinion. This has definitely helped me refine my own story and craft better pitches throughout my entrepreneurial career.
Guide investors through every part of your business.
According to Donald Miller, best-selling author and CEO of StoryBrand, customers tend to buy the product they can understand the fastest. Following the same logic, investors are more likely to fund a business idea that's clearly explained.
"What are you trying to do, who cares about having that problem solved, and can the economics of what people will pay support a viable business?" says Scott McCorkle, a technology investor and advisor with High Alpha who's active with companies such as Torchlite Marketing and Vibenomics. These are the big questions every pitch should answer.
One surefire way to improve your pitch is to make sure it's clear how each piece of your business fits together. This is something I strive for every time I pitch, and I can tell you that I always receive a better response when I'm more thorough about my business strategy.
Inspire emotion with powerful visuals that tell a story.
We all know the old adage about how many words a picture is worth. Clichés aside, images are powerful tools that convey a wealth of information in a short amount of time. They can also be great for evoking an emotional response from your audience.
"Our first deck [included] a picture of my son, because he gave us the best quote for the business. I loved that because it kind of hit home on why we do what we do," says Megan Glover, co-founder of 120 WaterAudit.
I've found that sprinkling my pitch deck with photos from my company's event series gives audiences a taste of the experience and increases their engagement. Similarly, many of the best pitches I've heard draw people in with visuals that show what the product looks like, how it works and how it benefits customers.
Be fully transparent and honest with your audience.
When pitching your company, it's only natural that you'll want to present it in the best possible light. However, you must never give into the temptation to stretch the truth, because this only leads to problems.
"If you try to hide or sugar coat numbers, technology [or] a convoluted cap table from previous rounds of investing, it will eventually have to be dealt with and could erode trust, and you really can't afford that as a founder," says Robert Harris, founder of MVP Launch Partners.
Lying to investors is one of the fastest ways to sabotage a deal and create a bad reputation for yourself. If your deck contains any exaggerations or half-truths, do yourself a huge favor and get rid of them before your next pitch.
As you work on each new iteration of your pitch, always focus making your messaging as impactful as possible. And above all else, keep practicing your delivery.
"You crush a pitch the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice," says McCorkle. I couldn't agree more.