Cross-Border Business Blog

Posted by Connor Sweeney on March 14, 2017

Perfecting your Pitch

Connor Sweeney takes us through the essential tips to perfect your pitch - from preparing well, researching your audience and remembering that in every presentation that you give, you are selling something, hence each presentation will be different.

What’s the point of the pitch?

Most entrepreneurs make the same mistakes when pitching – they miss the point of the presentation. What is the audience interested in? If you’re pitching to raise finance, then how will the investor make a return? If it’s a sales pitch, what product benefits will the buyer enjoy? The point of every presentation is to sell something, not to teach about your product. If you’re seeking investment, then you’re selling your company – or at least a part of it. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that one pitch fits all – it should be tailored to the audience being addressed and reflect the sale being made.

Your job as a presenter is to excite the viewer, not to educate them. The audience should want to know more about your offering, but you should leave nothing out!  What’s the key message that your pitch is about? The pitch should have a definite aim and the time allotted should be used to tell a story.

Prepare for the pitch

  • Look at who the audience will be. Don’t underestimate the first impression you make visually. Suits and boots are the order of the day - it’s a business occasion after all. Small point – make sure your shoes are clean! If you’re wearing a jacket, button it up while standing. It does make a difference visually.
  • Who will be doing the pitch? If there are more than one attending, will there be more than one presenting? Simple handovers can work quite well. However, if there’s only one presenter and there are more than one attending, don’t forget to introduce your colleague and to explain their role.
  • Try to do some research on your audience and anticipate what questions they will ask and cover these off in the presentation.  It always impresses us when we see all the important areas of a pitch covered before the question and answer session.
  • Always position your laptop in front of you so you can see it comfortably. It will stop you turning around to look at the projection screen – you will have your back to the audience if you do this which is not good. Also, make sure that the audience can actually see the big screen. Position yourself so you are not blocking their view.
  • Is there a physical product that you can bring along? Pass around your product if possible so the viewer can actually see and feel it. I know one presenter who always carries his product in his pocket and takes it out every time he meets a business contact to describe the progress that has been made since the last meeting. Impressive.
  • Keep the pitch to a reasonable time. 15 minutes is probably a long enough time for the pitch. Short and snappy beats long and drawn out every time. 

Structure

  • Every presentation needs three things – an introduction, the main body of the pitch, and a conclusion. The opening slide should set out a short introduction to the company, what you’re pitching for and the names and roles of the presenters. After the main slides, there should be a conclusion setting out the main points again and introducing a call to action.
  • One of the most common mistakes we see are slides filled with text. In a competition between the audience reading the screen and listening to the presenter, guess who wins? Think of an Apple presentation. One word on the screen sets out the subject, and then the presenter talks around that subject.  It just works.
  • We always recommend filming yourself presenting it and reviewing it while preparing. You would be amazed and what some presenters do with their hands, or that they read from the screen, or put their hand over their mouth when talking. Video shows all this up and will allow a correction. Practice, practice, practice. But don’t memorise your script as there’s a danger of a brain freeze just when an important part is reached. You know your subject inside out and should be able to talk about it without memorising a script or reading from notes. If you make a mistake, don’t say sorry. Carry on – the audience will not know that you have made a mistake!
  • It’s important to develop good voice and language skills. Try not to be monotone in your delivery. Sound enthused – after all you are selling something and you should believe in this. Make regular eye contact with the audience, but don’t stare them out. Try to read their body language and react appropriately.
  • Remember the point of the pitch, prepare well, research the audience and remember that in every presentation that you are giving, you are selling something, and that each presentation will be different.

Connor is the project manager of one of InterTradeIreland’s flagship funding projects, the Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition which aims to encourage new start and early stage business from all sectors to become investor-ready.  As a former practicing Chartered Accountant, Connor has a range of experience gained from working in an advisory capacity with a number of SME’s across the island.  His skills stretch from business planning, internal management accounting to raising finance and financial control and he has worked with early stage/start up businesses and more established ventures across a wide range of industries. Connor sits on the Local Advisory Board of the Career’s Academy and he is an Associate Member of Chartered Accountants Ireland. Connor is also a founder and director of his own start up business which commenced trading in 2000. He has also invested in a number of early stage companies.