While a great deal of literature has been written about presenting a pitch, there is too little written about how to prepare one.
Here are a few key tips to increase your probability of a successful pitch by focusing on how to prepare it beforehand:
Who is the audience?
Before beginning any pitch, you need to understand who you are pitching to.
Let’s use the extreme example of pitching your business idea to a group of varsity students and pitching the same idea to seasoned bankers. The tone, the content and the focus of your pitch would have to be significantly different for these two audiences.
Good questions to ask yourself are what are the audience’s values and what is important to them? It is key to do as much research as possible in order to understand your target audience.
The structure of the pitch
While no two pitches are the same, some of the sequencing will be the same for any pitch.
A good pitch needs to tell a story, starting with the problem and how it affects people (your potential market) and then moving on to your solution and how your solution solves the problem at a profit. Finally, you need to talk about why your organisation has the ability as well as the credibility to deliver the solution.
There is of course a great deal more detail within the story, but all pitches should follow this basic structure. A mistake I see with many pitches is the entrepreneur talking only about the product and its features and offering a puffed-up version of their own credibility. This type of pitch usually comes off as quite abrupt without a proper flow.
The pitch versus the clarifying questions
For a successful pitch, all entrepreneurs need to understand that there is the pitch and then there are the clarifying questions.
The trick is working out what to put in your pitch and what the likely clarifying questions will be. If you can create enough of a tease in your pitch, you can almost solicit the questions you would like to answer in more depth afterwards.
For example, “Within the marketplace we have three unique features, the most important of which is our goodimagafty technology.”
By mentioning the three points and legitimately highlighting only the most important of them (owing to a lack of time), you will likely prompt the curious investor to ask for clarity on the other two.
Headline financials with detailed understanding
During a pitch, when talking about the numbers, you should present only the main headlines, but you can be very sure that the judges (or investors) will ask for the details behind the headlines during their clarifying questions.
You need to ensure that these details are ready to just roll off your tongue with a sense of both confidence and humility.
Prep the skeleton
Other than the predetermined adjectives and metaphors you’ll use for each point of your pitch, it’s a good idea to prepare a broad skeleton of your pitch with a strong sense of your timing rather than the verbatim words you’ll be using.
A great example of this is how Steve Jobs pitched a new Apple product with the phrase “We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”
He would have used this phrase deliberately, having prepared it in advance, but would not have predetermined every single word of his pitch.