How to pitch your startup: 9 tips from an expert
Ah, the joys of pitching. Your entire masterplan has been squeezed into a few sentences, a roomful of powerful strangers who hold your future in their hands, and only seconds to impress them. Who doesn’t love a quick dip in the shark tank?
Too many people, unfortunately. Luckily for them, pitching coach David Beckett is here to help.
Beckett has spent decades mastering the art of public speaking. He first honed his skills through over 1,000 corporate presentations in 16 years at Canon, before switching to the crisper craft of startup pitches.
In 2013, Beckett founded Best3Minutes, which provides in-person and online training in his method. The techniques have now been taught to over 1,800 startups and scaleups, which have raised over €420 million between them.
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“My goal is not to tell people what to say,” Beckett told TNW. “My goal is to give them a framework to find their story, practice it, and deliver it to their audience.”
On March 30 at TNW Valencia, Beckett will be giving his latest pitching workshop. Before the session, he shared some of his top tips for startups.
1. Tune in to your audience
Your pitch needs to be in line with your audience’s desires. Who are they? What is important to them? How can you impress them?
Imagine you’ve built a crypto-powered parking app. You can rave about the benefits of storing driver data on a distributed ledger, but few people enjoy the torture of a blockchain.
“When we work on something day in and day out, we often want to tell people what we’ve created—but the audience doesn’t care,” says Beckett.
“Performance comes from your product, process and team.
A more powerful pitch will reflect the real world effect. You could say (if it’s true, of course) that people waste 20 minutes every day looking for a parking space. With the click of a button, your app cuts the time down to 60 seconds.
However, that example may not thrill everyone. In order to get your audience to do what you want, you need to know who they are.
2. Focus on the Problem and the Solution
Your pitch needs to focus on pain and benefit. It should fit into a simple statement that describes what you can do for customers.
A human problem makes the issues more relevant. What is the result of pain? How big is the problem? Will people pay to solve this? How have you verified this? Investors want these answers.
“The things that particularly trigger them are the size of the opportunity and the execution against that opportunity,” says Beckett. “And the execution part is the product, the progress, and the team.”
3. Establish a Clear Purpose
A successful pitch results in action. The end goal is often a defined investment, but startups usually need to take a different first step. This could be a follow-up meeting, an introduction, or scanning a QR code that shows the audience further information. The most important result is maintaining a connection.
Beckett’s alumni include everything from the furniture giant to the Dutch startup Lalaland.
Whatever your purpose, make it clear and memorable. You may only have a few minutes to persuade your audience to take action.
“Of course, you can’t communicate all the details in that amount of time, but that’s not really the goal,” says Beckett. “The goal of the pitch is to get to the next stage.”
4. Use Post-It Notes to Organize Your Thoughts
Once you have an objective, you need a strategy to reach it. Beckett recommends using Post-it notes to get the ideas out of your head and incorporate them into the story. To reduce preparation time, he also recommends downloading his Pitch Canvas, a free storytelling tool for structuring your pitch.
“It’s really difficult to deliver a pitch with certainty and passion when you don’t get the story straight,” he says. “Once you’ve got the story straight, you can start moving to the distribution part.”
5. Display Your Value
Investors want to see proof that you can execute your plan. If you have customer traction, describe who is using the product. If you have a demo, show the product in action. When time is short, a screenshot may suffice.
“If you can convince them it’s a business, not a concept, they’ll think about it differently,” says Beckett. “And what gives people confidence that this is a business, not a concept, is a working product and customers.”
“Once they say things out loud, they often find that what they have written is too technical.
if your product Is Still a concept, there are other ways to demonstrate your value. One showing that you have the passion to put in the hours. The other is any funding you’ve already raised.
“A few things come from this. First, people trust you. Second, you’ve gone through a due diligence process, so they’re less likely to be surprised.
6. Charm Them With Your Opening
You need to capture your audience’s interest quickly. Investors may see up to 1,000 pitches a year and they are always short of time. To grab their attention, your opening has to be different.
If it doesn’t take off, says Beckett, his support is “almost certainly not going to go away.”
7. Polish the Delivery
Once you have a prototype pitch, it’s time to verbalize it. Practice saying it out loud in front of an audience, and use their feedback to improve your presentation. You can then take a step back and re-evaluate clarity, focus, and rhythm.
“Once people start saying things out loud, they often find that what they’ve written is quite technical, and want to make it more direct,” says Beckett.
Beckett’s masterclass on pitching isn’t the only TNW Valencia session. Startups will also take the stage for the pitch battle.
Your presentation should emphasize the words that matter. Beckett uses the example of a hypothetical delivery startup. In one pitch, the founder plans to say, “We deliver a sustainable and energy-boosting donut for meetings near you.”
If their focus is on proximity, they might insist that donuts be delivered “at a meeting near you.” If their USP is sustainability, they can emphasize that “we provide a sustainable and energy-boosting donut.” If they’re selling Energy Effects, they might emphasize that it’s a “sustainable and energy-boosting donut.”
Your delivery should also connect on a human level – an important element of pitching. Just a moment showing your passion for the project can make a huge difference.
8. Manage Your Time With a Script
In discussions about public speaking, there is endless debate over the relative merits of spontaneity and planning. For Beckett, the best balance depends on your allotted time.
In a half-hour corporate presentation, you may only need to memorize the opening. Although, in short, you’ll probably need the entire script.
“For a three-minute pitch, the pressure is too much for most people’s brains to manage,” says Beckett. “If they don’t make a proper plan, they forget to say the things they really want to say, and spend too much time on things that aren’t so important.”
9. Time of Completion
Beckett has done extensive research on our ability to hear and speak. They conclude that you should speak at a maximum of 150 words per minute.
“If you speak faster than that, people can’t follow,” he says. “It’s best to speak a little slower so people can process it. Get a little wind around the main messages, but with enough energy and momentum.”
Those 150 words would fit into about nine sentences. Therefore, a three-minute pitch will typically consist of about 27 sentences. Those hard limits can help with allocating time if you’re struggling to structure your story.
And if that doesn’t quell anxieties of being judged in a matter of minutes, just remember: It’ll all be over in a matter of minutes.
David Beckett will be speaking at TNW Valencia, which will take place at the end of March. If you want to experience the phenomenon, we have something special for our loyal readers. use promo code tnwval30 And get 30% off your conference business pass for TNW Valencia.