If you don’t know what a Startup Weekend is, please check out this blog post first.
We’ve been talking a lot about Startup Weekend and its benefits, but today we’re going to talk about the elephant in the room… the pitch.
Yes, it will require you to stand up in front of a room full of people and put your idea out into the world, but today we’re going to focus on how to maximize your time and make it the best pitch possible.
JUST DO IT
First and foremost if you have an idea that you would like to try and turn into a business then pitch the idea on the day, just do it, it’s a fantastic opportunity to essentially change your life as you know it, and so many people let that chance slip away because they are “nervous” or “not feeling up to it.” Don’t worry about being nervous, you will be, and so will everybody else. Just get up there and give it your all for one minute.
UNDERSTAND HOW THE PROCESS WORKS
It’s important that you go into this all of the components of the opening night at Startup Weekend:
- The pitch. You will have 1 minute, with no slides, no props, no thing, to explain who you are, what you do and indicate who you are looking for to the audience.
- The vote. Once all the pitches are done the audience will be given 3 post-it notes and you will be given a big page of flip chart paper which ideally the attendees will stick their post-its to.
- The hustle. The pitchers with the most votes/post-its get through to the final 2 days (typically 10–12 ideas), be prepared to get out there amongst the attendees and campaign for those votes.
So, lets look at each one individually…
One minute is shorter than you can ever imagine, and it will seem even shorter in the moment. Sixty seconds, depending on how fast you speak, will probably afford you about 120 words to describe what your idea is all about. This isn’t long at all so you must make sure that you use that time well!
No preamble, no jibber jabber, just the facts.
How to get the most out of your 1 minute pitch.
HAVE A NAME FOR YOUR IDEA, AND MAKE IT A RELEVANT ONE THAT IS MEMORABLE
It’s important to show that you have thought about the branding of your potential business, but it’s also important to give people a reason to remember you. The attendees will be making mental notes on who they will give their vote to, and given that there might have been 10 or 20 pitches at any opening night you need to have a name that is at the very least memorable and sticks in the attendees mind.
USE A STORY TO EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
The key to a good business idea is that it solves a problem. The people in the audience may not know or relate to your problem, so you need to help them understand the woe you’re addressing.
Try and come up with a short story-based example that can explain the problem, how big it is and, in simple terms, what your proposed solution does. If you don’t sell the problem well, people won’t care about your solution.
USE REFERENCE POINTS THAT PEOPLE ALREADY KNOW
Sometimes you can get other products/services do the explaining for you. By using reference points that we all understand it can mean saving chunks of time that you would have spent trying to explain things from the ground up.
A recent example of this might be “Uber for garbage collection” — this tells us all we need to know instantly. While this approach might seem a bit “overdone” at this point, it works because timing is critical. The less you have to explain, the better.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
In the run up to the event think long and hard about the sort of skills you are looking for in potential team members. Try and be as specific as possible about who you are looking for during your pitch as this will mean that the most relevant people come up and chat to you afterwards.
“I suppose I’ll need some techies or whatever” and “I’ll need some PR, marketing, or bullshit artists” are both lines that sometimes make their way into pitches. Saying such things will make sure that no serious attendees are going to want to touch your idea with a long stick.
People will always want to work with people they like, or people like them, there’s no need to put on a fake persona and play the acting role of a businessperson. Just be yourself and show your enthusiasm for your idea. The cream will rise to the top.
A FEW MORE THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
- They will cut you off at 60 seconds on the dot. A large number of people don’t even make it to the end of their pitch. It’s rare that any such pitches progress to the next step.
- Rehearse your pitch to death. It’s always very obvious who has prepared and who hasn’t. If you want to come across as confident, coherent, and convincing you need to practice this thing out loud, and in front of people, over and over. Rehearse your pitch out loud, time how long it takes you to deliver, and you’ll know exactly how long it takes, so there is no excuse whatsoever for being over time on the day.
So, now that all the pitches are done you will be at the mercy of the masses and their votes.
At the very least have the name of your idea atop the page in very clear to read writing (they will give you a marker). Smart pitchers tend to include a short one-liner and/or a drawing or two to remind people of their brilliant ideas.
Don’t just cower in a corner with your sheet and expect votes to find their way to you. You need to be approachable and have a “hey come and chat to me” look about you. If the votes aren’t coming in don’t be afraid to go around to people asking for their votes. Hell, politicians do that all the time, and sometimes it works. Your job here is to get enough votes to get through to the next day… so do whatever it takes.
It might not seem like it, but this is training for the real world.
One hidden truth to Startup Weekend is that it’s not really about the pitch. It’s about recruiting.
It’s really hard to remember any of the pitches I heard, but I remember the people I met beforehand. Most won’t remember your pitch but you want them to remember you.
So realize that the event really starts before the event, and that as I said before people want to work with people they like!
So let’s all put our best face forward, grab that mic, and convince people why our idea is the next great idea!
Join us at Startup Weekend in Corner Brook, April 1-3, 2016!
If you don’t know what a Startup Weekend is, please check out this blog post first.
In summation, Startup Weekend is an event to bring two types of people together: people who have ideas, and people who can execute those ideas. They work together to build a business over a 54-hour period, with enough research and hard work done to hit the ground running with the business when they’re ready.
Attending a Startup Weekend is the best thing you can do to start your entrepreneurial journey. Below is a list of five reasons you should go:
The right type of people
When you attend a Startup Weekend you quickly realize that the sort of people that are willing to give up their weekend to try and do something entrepreneurial are exactly the sort of people you need to be around if you are hoping to start and run a business.
On top of getting some great business contacts and connections, you learn so much from mentors who have done this before.
Part of a community
Starting a business is tough, especially if you are doing it alone. When you attend a Startup Weekend you quickly realize that there is a community of people out there who are going through the exact same trials and tribulations as you. Sometimes (especially in Corner Brook, NL) we think that our geography is a limiting factor for entrepreneurship, but it isn’t and you can tap into a community of people that you may not have found otherwise.
A startup weekend offers your various levels of validation. First up it is the attendees as a whole who determine which ideas get worked on over the weekend, so right off the bat you are getting a good poll of smart people as to whether your idea is any good or not! If there are 20 ideas pitched, and 5 or so are selected to be worked on, right away you know whether your idea resonates with people.
If your idea does make it through then you will be pitching on Sunday to a panel of judges, typically the judges award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd placings, so if you were to finish in the top 3 you’d really know you were on to something!
If I was interested in starting a new business I would absolutely 100% attend a Startup Weekend for validation alone.
One of the best aspects of a Startup Weekend is that the organizers typically get an awesome lineup of mentors and advisors with various specialties such as finance, marketing, business development, presentation design, legal, etc. The attending mentors are always an extremely helpful and generally a well connected bunch, so you can get a lot of insight from them there, and often even have the ability keep in touch with them after the event.
A kick in the ass
You’ll leave Startup Weekend full of enthusiasm and creative energy. I think it’s probably because you manage to do so much and meet so many people in just two days that you realize you can really achieve a lot if you just put your mind to it. Furthermore, being surrounded by people who want nothing more than to help you succeed does a really good job of eliminating any excuses you may have, or any negativity that the outside world might have about entrepreneurship.
CAUTION: You may experience post-Startup Weekend blues. Please consult with with a business professional.
However there is a flip side to all this. Along with the kick in the ass that comes with Startup Weekend, there will always be the inevitable post-SW blues. Once the dust has settled, and Monday has rolled back around people return to their normal daily work routine and realize how damn boring it is!
So, how many more reasons do you need?
Join us at Startup Weekend in Corner Brook, April 1-3, 2016!
I’m involved with Corner Brook’s first Startup Weekend not because I can see how an event like this can be beneficial for participants, but because I’ve previously experienced how it can be beneficial for participants. I had the opportunity to travel to St. John’s for a Startup Weekend that they hosted in June 2015, and had such a good time that I had to help bring it to other people in Newfoundland.
Here’s what you get when you participate in a Startup Weekend:
Personal & Business Connections
Both personal and business relationships are established at an event like this that can’t be replicated under any other circumstances. The life of an entrepreneur can be lonely sometimes, but never at Startup Weekend. When I was grouped with people to work on a project (that I honestly didn’t fully believe in at the beginning) we weren’t just a group of people, we were a team working toward a common goal. Not just to win the competition, but to do the best job we could to make our startup a reality. I still have a close connection with my teammates, and even as recently as February 2016 made the 7-hour drive to attend a launch party for the product that we worked on that weekend.
In addition to those personal relationships, we also make a lot of business connections. You meet a lot of dedicated, passionate, and talented individuals who are (potential) entrepreneurs. Not just the organizers, mentors, sponsors, or judges, but also your future cofounder or life-saving problem solver could be one of your fellow participants. I’m also still in contact with some of those people, and have sought insight and advice from them a lot since my time at Startup Weekend.
Confidence & Pride
Anyone who already has a business knows that there is a sense of pride when you hand over your business card to someone and get to say “I do this.” If you don’t own a business, that’s okay because you can start to get that feeling as you begin to find your legs in the business world. There is no better way to do that than going through a 54-hour business “boot camp.” You not only get better at the talents you have, but you develop and/or learn about skills you never knew you had.
Why? Because you have to. If your team only has five or six people, you each have a specialty, but you each also need to dabble in other areas in order to get all of your work done.
The sense of pride comes out of this thing that you’ve created with your teammates. Whether you’re pitching an idea or working on someone else’s, you have an enormous amount of pride in the final product. If you are working on someone else’s idea, you will never love it as much as they do, but like me an my team, you will still swell with pride whenever it becomes something more than an idea and makes its way out into the world.
Knowledge & Experience
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.”
There is truly no better way to describe the wealth of knowledge and experience that you will gain not only from the work that you do during Startup Weekend, but also from the insight given to you by the organizers, mentors, sponsors, and judges. They’re involved because they’ve been through the wringer before, and know what they’re talking about. They advise participants based on their own experiences in the business world to help make the best possible projects come out of Startup Weekend.
Don’t forget that anything and everything you learn can help you make your own better business decisions in the future. Oh, and don’t forget that you will have these people as connections to learn more from them later as well!
I don’t know about you, but I question my own business chops sometimes… Can I make the right decisions? Do I know what I’m doing? Am I actually a good marketer like I claim to be? I think we all ask ourselves similar questions.
Startup Weekend is a great place to test all of these questions and more, then come out the other side knowing a lot more about yourself than you did before. From my own experience, I now know that I can make the right decisions, I have a better idea of the are that I do know well, and I am a good marketer. Your skills and assumptions can be put to the test during an event like this, and you should embrace it and learn from it.
The other validation is about your idea. If you pitch a business idea, you can get an incredible amount of information that can help you make better decisions… How enthusiastic did people seem about it? How many votes did your idea get? How many participants signed up for your team? During your pitch how what kind of questions did people ask?
All of this is data that you can use to either pursue your idea further after Startup Weekend, or (possibly) put it to rest.
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.
This one may not appear on all the brochures, but to me it’s the most important. Would I be involved with Startup Weekend again if I didn’t have a good time? The reason is largely because of the good people involved and that we were all working toward a common goal, but it’s also because I loved the work that we were doing. All of the aforementioned qualities culminated and caused me to have a great time that was worth the two 7-hour drives and sleeping on a couch for a week.
If nothing else, at least the experience has given me a good story to tell.
You have a story, too. Come spend the weekend with us and we’ll make sure it’s a good one!
Above all else, Startup Weekend is an opportunity. An opportunity to take that lingering idea for a business that you have, and turn it into something real. An opportunity to meet new and interesting people, all of whom have the same entrepreneurial spirit. An opportunity to test you own skills, ideas, and valour in the face of an entrepreneurial career.
This opportunity takes place over a 54-hour period, wherein business-minded individuals meet, pitch business idea, break up into teams, and develop a plan for making that business possible. The end result being the validation that your idea could work in the real world, a plan on how to make that a reality, and the confidence to do something with it.
The hardest part of starting up is starting out. At Startup Weekend, you’ll be immersed in the ideal environment for startup magic to happen.
At Startup Weekend, you will…
- Connect with people driven to build something new. Rich and diverse talent is a Startup Weekend staple.
- Are you ready to meet your next cofounder, friend, mentor, or investor?
- Discover where you are on the entrepreneurial journey.
- Find the resources available near you.
- Leave knowing the next steps you need to take on your road to success.
- Learn what it really takes to start a company.
- No book, panel, speaker, or blog post will teach you what you need to know.
- The only way to learn is the experience of trying.
- It’s that simple. Startup Weekend is designed to get you going, FAST.
- Your local Organizers will set up the ideal environment for you to be successful and learn as much as possible in just 54 hours.
Participating in Startup Weekend Corner Brook does cost $25, but it’s more than worthwhile:
You get the chance to build your idea into a startup in 54 hours…
You get to work on your strategy, validation, market research, and leadership…
You get the opportunity to meet likeminded entrepreneurs and make essential business relationships…
And the winning teams get prizes to help them get started on their entrepreneurial journey…
So join us for Corner Brook’s first Startup Weekend, April 1-3, 2016.