Startup pitches range from brilliant to boring to downright terrible. Other than practicing more, how can you improve yours? We asked 12 successful founders to share their most unorthodox tips for honing a startup pitch. 

1. Call Mom
It sounds simple, but if you can explain your startup to your mom or grandma, you are well on your way. So pitch them. You'll know if they don't get it. Keep listening to how they explain it when they do grasp it. Mom knows.
--Eric Koester, DCI

2. Make It Ugly
It isn't the design that's going to win over investors, it's the message. Aim for clarity by using clear and high-contrast imagery. If you balance that out with large fonts and short headlines, investors will get to the heart of your business more quickly. Save the fancy typography and light gray/transparent graphics for the website. This is when it counts. Make sure they can read it.
--Tyler Arnold, SimplySocial Inc.

3. Record Yourself
Recording yourself on video can help immensely as you work to perfect your startup pitch. While reviewing your video, watch for things like tone, pace of speech, and facial expressions. Watching can help you realize nuances you weren't aware of and help you pinpoint ways to improve. Being self-aware will put you one step ahead of your fellow pitching peers.
--Kim Kaupe, 'ZinePak

4. Pitch to Someone You Know Will Say "No"
Pitch investors you know will never invest--those who dislike your industry or phase. They are the people who will be most skeptical and who will ask you challenging questions. Do your pitch as you normally would, and try to convince them anyway. You'll hear all the likely questions that the real targets will ask you later.
--Ioannis Verdelis, Syntellia

5. Clearly Mention the Amount of Funding You Need
Many entrepreneurs either forget this or shy away from it, but if you need $100,000 to get going, say so. It's not as if the VCs you're pitching to don't already know you have your hand out. They need to know exactly what you need.
--Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

6. Practice With Strangers
An easy way to polish your startup pitch is by practicing it with strangers. Even better are strangers who aren't in your industry. You can do this in line at the coffee shop, on airplanes, or at the grocery store. An easy way to identify when your pitch is getting better is when people say, "Tell me more about that."--Antonio Neves, THINQACTION

7. Get Someone Else to Pitch It
One of my favorite tests of a clear and concise pitch is to give it to a stranger at a party or event. When another person comes up to chat, I ask my new friend to explain what it is my company does. If he can't give the pitch, I must not have pitched him or her very well either.
--Adam Lieb, Duxter

8. Pitch to Event Attendees
Talent fairs and startup expos are a great way to polish your pitch because you are automatically forced to explain your company's concept to every single person that visits your booth in under a few minutes. Most of these exchanges also include impromptu follow up questions that make you think on your feet.
--Zachary Yungst,

9. Create Multiple Pitches
Don't have just one well-rehearsed pitch. Not everyone has the same level of expertise or interest. I have a few variations of my pitches based on other people's backgrounds and experiences. It's good to be able to tailor it on the fly to make it more relevant.
--Trace Cohen,

10. Keep Changing It Until You Consistently Get Follow-up Questions
Your pitch should explain what you do while simultaneously engaging people. If they don't start asking follow-up questions, you are boring them. Keep changing it until you have a "hook" that gets people interested and asking questions.
--Chuck Cohn, Varsity Tutors

11. Wait Until the Last Minute
Waiting until the last minute will force you to focus on producing only those slides that have the maximum value. You won't have time to obsess over each slide and to bloat the slide deck into a snooze-fest.
--Jared Brown, Hubstaff

12. Talk to Children
If you can captivate a child's attention, rest assured you can captivate an adult's attention. If I can get my daughter's attention for enough time, then I know I have something good, and I can build off that when I pitch to adults.
--Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction, LLC

Published on: Oct 24, 2013
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of