It’s that time of year—epic global startup pitch competition Global Startup Battle is upon us. Whether you win or lose, the benefits of entering a startup pitch competition are great. They allow businesses to build buzz, make connections, meet potential mentors, and may even be used as a venue to begin securing investors.
All that being said, startup pitch competitions can be very intimidating. It can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and lose sight of the end-goal. Keep the following key points in mind when attending a startup pitch competition—as recommended by startup pitch experts The Dallas Entrepreneur Center—to make sure you keep your eyes on the prize.
Global Startup Battle attendees will really want to bring their A-Game this year—.CO is providing over $20,000 in prizes, including a trip to Amsterdam, to the winners of the .CO Innovators Track in Global Startup Battle.
Play the game the right way
What is the format of the competition? How much time will you be given? How will the Q&A be handled? What criteria are the judges going to be scoring you on?
First and foremost, make sure you address the main points that are listed on the judges’ scorecard so that you can check the boxes on that sheet and then cover the other important areas you want to communicate to the judges. For example, if the judges are grading you on information about your “team” and you don’t talk about your team at all during a pitch, how can you expect to be given a high score?
Tailor your presentations to the competition at hand. Follow directions, show your work where applicable and don’t try to bend (or break) the rules.
Inject some power into your PowerPoint
Brevity is of the utmost necessity to any pitch. If your audience is too busy squinting to read each text-heavy slide, you’ll distract them from actually listening to the meat of your pitch. If there must be a graphic component to your pitch, be creative with that aspect of the presentation. Remember that PowerPoint slides are visual, and when used effectively, can do wonders to speak to the emotional appeal of your pitch.
Think about the ways in which all five senses, not just the visual, present opportunities to make an impression.
In the course of your presentation, you may feel like you are getting grilled by the judges and you may also receive some negative feedback. Don’t feel defeated, don’t try and dodge the difficult questions and don’t push back –you want to show you believe in your idea and that you’re committed to it in the face of naysaying. However, you don’t want to come off as petulant or argumentative either.
Use the Q&A time you have with the judges in a creative way. Yes, answer the questions asked of you but you’ll also want to make sure that you use that time to communicate information you didn’t get to fully cover in your presentation. Use the standard public relations mentality of ATM: Answer, Transition, Message—answer the question they ask, transition back to something you want to talk about and then stick the message of your presentation.
For example, if a judge asks you whether your technology is scalable, be sure to answer “yes” or “we think so” followed by specifics: “but what we think is an important component of what we’ve seen is having already signed up 100,000 users, and with these three strategic partnerships will add another 500,000, allowing us to prove and showcase the scalability of our product.”
Side tip: Remember the last slide of your presentation is likely going to be up on the screen during the entire Q&A time. The information on your last slide should be the most vital to communicating your company’s offerings. If you have the CEOs of Netflix and Apple on your board, leave your team slide as the last slide. If you’re generating substantial revenue and cash flow, show that traction. Too often, we simply put “thank you” or our contact information on the last slide.
Accept any criticism offered, even if it isn’t constructive; go along with their flow, and avoid becoming too distracted.
Remember that pitching is a performance. In your preparations, rehearse with your team and run through some exercises to hone your improvisational skills. Put yourself in the position of a potential judge or have another team member take on that role and grill you on all possible questions. Identify the worst-case scenario for your pitch and see whether, in rehearsal, you can’t overcome or work around it.
Emphasize the “who”
Of course, the “what” of your business is crucial. You want to make sure anyone walking away from your presentation does so with a clear sense of what your business actually does: the problem you’ll be solving, the service you’ll be offering, the unique benefit your customers will receive. But, you also must assume there are multiple startups out there aiming for the exact same markets. What sets your company apart from the rest?
Think in broad terms. “You” are a part of a larger group of mentors, advisors, co-founders and board of directors. The talent you’ve assembled and the “big names” you may have lined up as consultants and angel investors are all an integral part of the “who” of your organization. You can often create more interest, excitement and intrigue around your company if you highlight your team, your mentors, your strategic partners or investors. “You” are here to tell the story of your business and need to communicate the passions, accomplishments and strengths of your team.
Although being friendly and charming is never a bad thing, these competitions are not popularity contests. Judges are gauging your competence as well as your credibility, and your confidence is an indicator of that competence.
Give them something to remember you by
Put yourself in the position of a competition judge for a moment. You’ve just sat through nearly 100 rapid-fire pitches and no matter how thorough your notes are, you’re simply not going to remember every detail about what you’ve just seen and heard.
Your job as a presenter is to end your presentation with what long-practiced pitchers call a “memory cue.” Search for a great anecdote, a joke, a gesture, even a catchphrase that can be the one thing that judges remember your presentation by.
These things may seem trivial, but memory works by association. Conclude your presentation with a call to action in which you tell—or better yet, show—your audience precisely what you want them to remember about your presentation.
By keeping the above tips in mind, you’ll be in good company with many great entrepreneurs who have succeeded in their pitches. Always remember to learn from those before you, and to learn from your own mistakes.
Want to be a part of Global Startup Battle? Find a GSB event in a city near you!