This post originally appeared on the Orate blog. Orate (Startup Weekend DC winner) connects event organizers and public speakers, providing access to more opportunities for both with quality & budget in mind.
Pitches are difficult; they take time and effort. However, there are some tricks that anyone can use to make this daunting process easier.
Orate participated in The Startup Factory’s Fall 2014 accelerator, which culminated on November 12 with Pitch Day (also referred to as Demo Day). If you didn’t already know, it is an event where the founders of accelerated companies present on their business to a room of investors, advisors, and media. It’s stressful, and obviously, the stakes are high. (Check out the pitches here.)
We spent three weeks preparing for what we anticipated to be among the most intimidating 8 minutes of our lives. Writing scripts, scrapping them, re-writing scripts, practicing, refining, tweaking.
We practiced alone, in front of the managing partners, our team and the other companies. We worked on the pitch literally every day for three weeks. In that time, some very important lessons surfaced that stood true for myself, as well as the four other founders pitching that day.
- Be yourself. The best presentations were given by every single one of us when we let our guard down a bit and added our own flare to the pitch. Whether that was through facial expressions, changes in tone of voice, or impromptu quips. Doing this not only helps you come across more genuine, but will also makes you feel more comfortable. The #1 piece of advice I’d give to you is to let your personality shine through in your presentation.
- Throw away your script as early as possible. The earlier you toss the script, the less scripted you will sound in the end, and the easier time you’ll have doing #1. This will also help you adjust your presentation to use words and phrases that feel more natural to you, reducing the risk of stumbling over your words come game time. Focus on the message and ideas you want to convey, and remember there are always multiple ways to do that.
- If you make a mistake, nobody will know except you. Nobody else knows what you’re going to say, so if you change a word or skip something, the audience has no idea. Just stay confident and keep going. At one point during my pitch I completely forgot what came next. I simply paused, smiled, and made sure to breathe while I gathered my thoughts. It felt like ages that I was silent up there, but it was actually only a few seconds and nobody even noticed. Fun Challenge: Watch the video of my pitch below, and see if you can figure out where this happened. (Email your answer firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send you something special if you get it right!)
- Don’t over practice. My best pitches were always the first or second of the day. The other presenters shared a similar experience. One of them told me there was one day he just kept getting worse, but he wanted to keep practicing until he got it right. Eventually he gave up, and it even negatively affected his practice the next day because he was so nervous that he would have a repeat of the day before. The sweet spot seems to be 1-3 times per day.
Want to impress investors with your next pitch? Grab the The Startup Factory’s pitch training deck here!