In a competitive environment such as today’s, small business owners need to work harder than ever to sell their ideas and bring their innovations to the forefront of investors’ minds. This is usually done by writing and delivering a stellar business pitch to gain investment and get people interested in a service or product.
But how do you go about writing and delivering an impactful pitch? A good pitch will summarize the ideas, concept and operations of the business while focusing on the unique selling points of the product or service. Here are my tips on how to master the art of the business pitch.
Preparing the pitch
To be able to communicate effectively with investors, business owners need to plan their pitch and be confident and passionate about their product or service. To do this, they need to prepare. The following steps summarize some simple techniques to follow in the planning stage:
1. Focus on your goal and key takeaway points
Make notes and be concise; think about what investors need to know. Usually, they need to know about the product or service, your expertise, and financial projections. By writing this down, you can then review and adjust the content of your pitch. What you don’t want to do is waffle and include irrelevant information. Keep the message of your pitch clear, straight-forward and professional.
2. The presentation is not the business plan
Don’t cut and paste content from your business plan. You can use this as a guide, but the investors don’t need to know the finer details of everything from your plan. They will have a copy of it already and will have read it in preparation. If you do copy straight from the plan, investors are likely to consider your attempts to sell the business as lacking in effort, and your pitch could come across lengthy and distracting.
3. Have only one or two speakers
Don't fill the room with management. Think about your key speakers - who do you need with you to support your pitch? Do you need anyone at all? Or do you know enough about your own product/service to be able to convince investors to provide financial support?
4. Limit the slides to between 12-16
Depending on the time allotted to your pitch, the maximum number of recommended slides for a business pitch is between 12 and 16. Often people will use the term, 'death by powerpoint' and any more slides could lead to investors losing concentration and focus. Remember, the investors have invited you to tell them about your business, not the powerpoint slides. Use these as an aid to your verbal pitch rather than as a substitute.
5. Use 5 bullet points per slide
The inclusion of a maximum of five bullet points per slide ensures your slides are clutter free, easy to read and are there as a prompt. Any further detail could distract the investors away from your verbal content.
6. Use Arial 12 font
Investors need to be able to read the slides. Whilst there are a vast range of options for font sizes, keep this simple. Most reports and academic institutions require Arial 12 font to be used, so unless otherwise stated in the brief for the pitch it is recommended that you use this.
7. Choose a dark background with white letters
This is not a mandatory requirement, however, research suggests that investors are attracted to presentations when the background is dark and the lettering is clear. Play about with this as you need to adapt the slides to your corporate branding.
Preparation is essential and I would suggest you take time to ensure your presentation is clear, delivers the message and you know what you are going to say. Ideally, practice on someone before you conduct your final pitch.
Delivering the pitch
You only have a limited amount of time to impress, so make good use of it. When delivering your pitch, try to implement the following techniques:1. Speak clearly and make the presentation engaging
Be sure to speak with confidence and authority without appearing arrogant. Remember to enunciate and ensure that everyone in the room can hear you clearly.
2. Involve the audience
Link the idea you're focusing on to something the audience already knows. Do your homework as part of your preparation so you can bring your ideas alive and contextualize them to your investor audience. Look for similarities or common ideas you have with the investors.
3. Be enthusiastic and believe in the idea
Show passion for your product and service. This will give confidence to your investors that you are committed to your business and want to make it a success.
4. Use body language to show enthusiasm
Use your body to portray your excitement for the product or service. Be careful not to overuse gestures, but simple body language techniques should work. As part of your preparation, refer to literature on body language; how to stand, gestures using your hands, your head, facial expressions etc.
5. Try not to be anxious or overact
In some respects you are defending your ideas. Investors will ask questions and challenge your ideas and figures. Allow them to do this and be confident in your answers. Don’t be too protective, be professional, provide facts and evidence.
6. Watch professional presentations and identify their strengths
There are plenty of examples of presentations available on the internet today. Watch these prior to your pitch and identify the strengths and weaknesses of them. You can then mirror good practice during your pitch.
Whatever your idea for a product or service is, remember to be convincing, know the facts, and be able to discuss financial details with confidence.
About the Author
Alison Watson is Programme Leader for BA Business at. She's an expert in marketing, human resource management, international business and student recruitment. Alongside working for a number of higher education institutions, Alison runs a business specializing in bespoke learning and training packages.