How do you pitch a business idea?
This editorially independent article was paid for by HP – Thanks HP!
Every business starts with a pitch. It might be a pitch to an angel investor, or a bank, to get the money you need to make your dream a reality. Or it might be a pitch to a potential customer. But whoever it is, you need to be able to communicate your business idea succinctly and persuasively.
What does a pitch look like?
You’ll need two different kinds of pitch: the first is simply something expressing your idea in 25 words or fewer – the “elevator pitch”, so named because it’s short enough to give someone in the time it takes to go between floors in a lift.
The second and more important pitch is longer, and has more depth to it. It takes between five and 15 minutes, and it’s designed to get your idea across to an investor or other important person – so it has to be good. There are five things you should do to make sure you get a perfect pitch.
There’s nothing that turns potential investors and others off more than a pitch full of waffle, especially at the beginning. You need to grab the attention of the people you’re pitching to right from the start, and don’t let their attention wander. That means keeping it short and sweet – five to 15 minutes should be more than enough.
Use good visuals
One of the cardinal sins of pitching is to have too many words onscreen, using PowerPoint as if it were a Word document. The more words you have onscreen, the more people will stop and read, which means they aren’t listening to you. Using good visuals at the right time in your presentation is incredibly important. Consider, too, using physical props during your pitch – something your audience can hold, and pass round among them. Using printed material can also be incredibly powerful. Rather than illustrating your product with a picture on a screen, which may be of limited readability, why not print out something that looks different and has a powerful impact? However, remember that point about not giving people material that distracts them from what you’re saying – don’t hand out a full, detailed document (which people naturally start reading immediately) before the end.
Be confident and show your commitment
Your idea is great. But what any investor will be looking for is confidence and commitment from you. Remember that any investor is buying into you as much as your idea – and if you don’t have confidence in yourself, that makes it much harder for them to have confidence in you.
One of the most important ways to build confidence is to rehearse. Practice your pitch over and over again until it becomes second nature to you, something you can do in your sleep. Practice in front of the mirror every morning. If you have mastery of your material, it instantly gives you more confidence. And before you start, take five seconds to control your nerves. Everyone gets nervous, so breathe, slow down, have a moment of silence, and then begin.
Focus on the opportunity – but be realistic
It’s easy to get carried away with the details of your idea, but your idea is only important if there’s a business opportunity there that it meets. Make sure you show the audience you’ve done your homework, and truly understand what the potential market is for what you want to do. If you’re asking for investment, you need to show what the return is likely to be, by when, and how this is going to be achieved. Even if your pitch is as simple as asking the bank for a loan to buy a new piece of equipment, if you can show you’ve thought about how the equipment will allow you to increase your sales or efficiency, you stand a much better chance of getting the money.
The number-one thing likely to make a potential investor or partner dismiss you out of hand is if you exaggerate rewards or underplay risk. You need to show that you know your numbers off by heart and are entirely upfront about any potential risks. You don’t need all the answers, but demonstrating that you’ve worked out what the challenges are and are upfront about the risks will go a long way to persuading your audience that you’re a competent, skilled businessperson.