Ah, the joys of pitching. Your entire master plan squeezed into a few sentences, a room of powerful strangers with your future in their hands, and only seconds to impress them. Who doesn’t love a quick dip in a shark tank?
A lot of people unfortunately. Lucky for them, pitching coach David Beckett is there to help.
Beckett has spent decades mastering the art of public speaking. He first honed his skills through over 1,000 corporate presentations during 16 years at Canon, before moving on to the sharper craft of startup pitches.
Beckett was founded in 2013 Best 3 Minutes, which offers in-person and online training in its method. The techniques have now been taught to more than 1,800 startups and scale-ups, who together have raised more than € 420 million.
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“My goal is not to tell people what to say,” Beckett tells TNW. “My goal is to give them a framework to find their story, practice it, and make it land with their audience.”
At TNW Valencia on March 30, Beckett will teach his latest pitching workshop. Before the session, he shared some of his top tips for startups.
1. Tune in to your audience
Your pitch must match the wishes of your audience. Who are they? What do they care about? How can you impress them?
Imagine you created a crypto-powered parking app. You could explain the benefits of storing driver data in a distributed ledger, but few people enjoy blockchain torture.
“When we’re working on something day in, day out, we often just want to tell people what we’ve built — but the public might not care at all,” says Beckett.
“Execution comes from your product, process and team.
A more powerful pitch illustrates a real-world impact. You could say (if it’s true of course) that people waste 20 minutes every day looking for a parking space. With the click of a button, your app shortens the time to 60 seconds.
However, this example may not appeal to everyone. To get your audience to do what you want, you need to know who they are.
2. Focus on the problem and the solution
Your pitch should focus on pain and gain. This should fit into a simple statement that shows what you can do for customers.
A human problem makes the problems more recognizable. What causes the pain? How big is the problem? Will people pay to fix it? How did you validate that? Investors want these answers.
“Things that especially trigger them are the size of the opportunity and the execution against that opportunity,” says Beckett. “And the execution part is product, progress, and team.”
3. Set a clear goal
A successful pitch results in action. The ultimate goal is often a fixed investment, but startups normally have to take another first step. This can be a follow-up conversation, an introduction or scanning a QR code that shows the public more information. The main result is keeping a connection.
Whatever your goal, make it clear and memorable. YYou may only have a few minutes to convince your audience to take action.
“Of course you can’t communicate all the details in that time, but that’s not really the goal,” says Beckett. “The goal of the field is to move to the next step.”
4. Use post-it notes to organize your thoughts
Once you have a goal, you need a strategy to achieve it. Beckett advises use post-it notes to get the ideas out of your head and into one storyline. To cut down on prep time, he also recommends using his pitch canvas, a free storytelling tool to structure your pitch.
“It’s really hard to deliver the pitch with certainty and passion if you don’t get the story right,” he says. “Once you get the story straight, you can start with the delivery part.”
5. Demonstrate your worth
Investors want to see proof that you can execute your plan. If you have customers, explain who uses the product. If you have a demo, show that the product works. If time is short, a screenshot may suffice.
“If you can convince them it’s about a business and not a concept, they’ll start to think differently,” says Beckett. “And what convinces people it’s a business, not a concept, is a working product and customers.”
“When they say things out loud, they often feel that what they have written is too technical.
as your product is still a concept, there are other ways to demonstrate your worth. One shows that you have the passion to make hours. Another is money you’ve already raised.
“There are a number of things that come out of that. First, people trust you. Second, you’ve gone through a due diligence process, so it’s unlikely they’ll get any surprises.”
6. Captivate them with your opening
You need to capture the interest of your audience quickly. Investors can see 1,000 pitches per year and always little time. To grab their attention, your opening needs to stand out.
If it doesn’t work out, says Beckett, their support “will almost certainly be a no-go.”
7. Polish the delivery
Once you have a prototype pitch, it’s time to articulate it. Practice saying it out loud in front of an audience and use their feedback to refine your presentation. You can then step back and reassess the clarity, focus and rhythm.
“When people start saying things out loud, they often find that what they’ve written is quite technical and they want to make it more direct,” says Beckett.
Your delivery should highlight the words that matter. Beckett uses the example of a fictional delivery startup. In a pitch, the founder wants to say: “We deliver a sustainable and energy-boosting donut to meetings near you.”
If their focus is on proximity, they may emphasize that donuts are delivered “to a meeting NEARBY.” If their USP is sustainability, they can emphasize that “we deliver a SUSTAINABLE and energy-enhancing donut”. If they sell the energy effects, they can emphasize that it is a “SUSTAINABLE and energy-enhancing donut”.
Your delivery should also connect to the human level – a critical element of pitching. One moment showing your passion for the project can make a huge difference.
8. Manage your time with a script
Public speaking debates endlessly debate the relative merits of spontaneity and planning. For Beckett, the best balance depends on your allotted time.
For a half-hour business presentation, you may only need to memorize the opening. For a short pitch, you probably need a full script.
“For a three-minute pitch, the pressure is too much for most people’s brains to handle,” says Beckett. “If they don’t make a good plan, they forget to say the things they really want to say and spend too much time on things that aren’t that important.”
9. Time to Perfection
Beckett has done extensive research on our listening and speaking abilities. He comes to the conclusion that you should pitch a maximum of 150 words per minute.
“If you speak faster, people can’t follow you,” he says. “It is best to speak a little slower so that people can process it. Air around the core messages, but with enough energy and speed.”
Those 150 words fit into about nine sentences. A three-minute pitch will therefore typically consist of about 27 sentences. If you’re having trouble structuring your story, those rough boundaries can help divide time.
And if that doesn’t ease the fear of being judged in a few minutes, remember: It’s all over in a few minutes.
David Beckett will speak at TNW València, which takes place at the end of March. If you want to join the event, we have something special for our loyal readers. Use the promotional code TNWVAL30 and receive a 30% discount on your business conference pass for Applied Sciences Valencia.