Monday, February 27, 2012

Making a Good Pitch

I spent this weekend mentoring at StartupWeekend Boston. As usual, I had a lot of fun getting out of the day job and spending time with people working on new ideas and solving problems.

One of the more enlightening things was working with teams on pitch practice and comparing them to final pitches. If nothing else, pitchfests like this are a great opportunity to look at what makes a good pitch presentation.... and what doesn't. Here's what I noticed this weekend:

  • Live demos make your idea look a whole lot more real.
  • Slide titles are overrated - try ditching them. If you have to use a title, your content is probably unclear.
  • No notes! Please no notes! Do you really want to look like you don't know your own idea?
  • If you look completely panicked while answering a question, we'll know you're making it up.
  • Your slides should match your feel. If you're pitching a trendy consumer app, don't use a corporate-looking template.
  • "We didn't get a chance to show".... because you didn't budget your time correctly. When you know how long you'll have, it's up to you to make sure you fit the important parts in.
  • Don't start with a question unless you're darn sure you'll get the answer you want. Bad questions: anything that can be answered with "No".
  • Words words words. If you have a lot of words on a slide, there's probably an issue. A 5 minute pitch isn't the place to throw up a lot of words. An hour long pitch and we'll talk, but in 5 minutes, slide reading is not really effective.
  • Watch your time. In 5 minutes, you're not going to go through everything. Your goal should be to get people excited and show them you know what you're talking about. Translation: demo, problem statement, solution, and basic market validation. Skip: projections, bogus market sizing.
  • Beautiful helps. Great design - product and slides - goes a long way toward making your idea seem better.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with every bullet point. Big fan of "Slide titles are overrated" just look at Steve Jobs launch the original iPhone.

    Looking forward to seeing the recording (Twilio is uploading a recording to their vimeo account). I really tried to touch on all of these but obviously missed (at least in the eyes of the judges).

    Great guidelines for Startup Weekend pitches in general though, these should be mandatory reading.