Mastering The Art Of Pitching

Pitching-a single action that can determine the future of an entrepreneur’s lifelong work. Mastering the art of pitching is the key to making your dream business idea come to life.

In a startup, pitching follows the Pareto’s Principle-80% of results come from 20% of efforts . A founder gets only a few minutes to present his/her ideas to investors. But the results can lead to a make or break situation. You get the funding and guidance needed to succeed or you don’t get anything at all.

Thus, pitching for your social business startup is extremely important. In this article, we will share 10 steps to master the art of pitching and get your startup to the place you want it to be.

  • Start with a story

We all are familiar with the saying, “First impression lasts forever.” Thus, the first few seconds are important for you, as the entrepreneur, to impress your potential investors. And what better way than telling a story? Research shows the brains of both the speaker and the audience (your investors in this case) sync up when the speaker tells a story.

But more importantly, telling a story will show to your audience about your passion and determination towards your project. It shows what the product or service you are building means to you and your team.

Creating a story for a social business is easier than other types of businesses. This is because social businesses are created out of an idea to change society for good. And this idea often comes from an experience a founder encounters. So create the human touch with your investors first by starting with a story.

Back in 2009, Professor Yunus started his commencement speech at Wharton School of Business in the following way:

When I finished school, got my PhD, I had no idea whether my life would someday be of any use to anyone else’s. But in the mid-seventies, I was back in newborn Bangladesh, and out of frustration with the terrible economic situation in Bangladesh I decided to see if I could make myself useful to one poor person a day in the village next door to the university campus where I was teaching.

When I went into the villages, I could not miss seeing the ruthlessness of moneylenders in the village. First I lent the money to replace the loan sharks.  Then I went to the local bank to request them to lend money to the poor. They refused. After months of deadlock I persuaded them by offering myself as a guarantor.  This is how microcredit was born in 1976.

See how Professor Yunus started with a story? You too can start with a story about how you came up with the business idea.

  • Create a one sentence soundbite

In news, you might see how tweets by celebrities, sportsmen, politicians or even CEOs can create a storm. This is because, the short phrases written by those people seem to be remembered by all and influence them as well.

Investors are like twitter users. They will encounter a lot of pitching by other companies as well on the same day you pitch. So probably they will forget about most of the companies.

As a social entrepreneur, you will be more worried as investors also would not like the idea of giving away the profits. Here, your business comes to the rescue. But what you think is a radical idea may not be the same for your investors. Have a sound bite that explains your business in one sentence to the investors.

For example: Shishir Water goes by the line, “MAKING WATER PART OF OUR LIFE”. This simple but effective soundbite helps investors to remember the purpose and motive of Shishir Water’s social business.

  • Create short and simple slides

Have you ever seen Steve Jobs giving presentations? In case you have not, I suggest you do. Though there might be a presentation file displayed on the back, everyone focused on what he had to say.

One of the mistakes, anyone of us giving presentations commit is to concentrate on slides more than the speech. A slide is important, no doubt. But it is not the most important thing.

However, you might need to use slides to complement what you say. You don’t need to be a doctorate in designing but a simple template will do the trick. Avoid making slides wordy and avoid making a lot of slides. Here you can follow a rule known as 10/20/30.

The 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint is simple: A pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Why it works? First of all, humans can’t comprehend more than 10 concepts at a time. Second, after twenty minutes of an uninterrupted session, human attention decreases largely. And finally, font less than thirty points can make the slides unreadable for audience at the back

  • Visualize your numbers

How many of us have liked math classes when we were at school? Very few. That is because we take numbers as abstract signs bearing few context.

Investors are no different. So when you have to show finances or statistics, show them in a way that even a child can understand. Remember, Steve Jobs bringing out a Macbook from an envelope? He could have easily said the Macbook is 5cm thick. But instead, he showed to the audience how thin 5cm really is. By this way, everyone could understand the slickness of the Macbook.

Similarly, in your pitch visualize your finance and statistics. Use bars and charts to show numbers. In this way, investors can grasp an idea about the feasibility of your business.

  • Go through the seven points

You might have a lot of things to say about your social business or nothing at all. So how can you go through all about your business in a short amount of time? Follow these seven points and it will cover almost everything about your startup.

  • The Problem: What problem of society do you wish to eradicate through your business? Why is it a problem? The problem Shishir Water wants to solve is the lack of pure drinking water in Bangladesh.
  • The Solution: What does your business do to solve the problem? For example: Shishir Water decided to solve the water crisis problem in rural Bangladesh through “Clean drinking water in a jar for consumption at affordable price, produced in a energy efficient way.”
  • The Method: How does your business solve the problem? Here, show the process by which your product/service will solve the problem. Shishir Water uses UV LED lighting to purify surface water. It sets up community based plants through franchisees and delivers the jars to disadvantaged communities.
  • The Model: What is your business model? What is your production target? How are you managing the finances? The business model will help investors understand whether you have a feasible plan for your business. Shishir Water’s business model consisted of its production target (6000 litres per month), monthly revenue and franchisee fee.
  • The Competition: Who are your existing competitors? If there aren’t any in your particular field, choose from a related industry. During pitching, show how your business serves customers better than the competitors. Shishir Water’s main competitors are subsidised water production systems and existing bottled water companies. What sets Shishir Water apart is that it supplies clean water using advanced energy efficient technology with a smart monitoring system.
  • The Strategy: How are you going to reach your target customer? This is mainly about the marketing of your product/service. Shishir Water reaches vulnerable communities through raising awareness among people and through direct sales.
  • The Team: Who’s your team? Co-founders? Here, you can talk about your team and their experiences.
  • The Progress: How far have you progressed? Have you reached milestones? Here, you can show the number of customers reached and how people have benefitted from your business. Shishir Water has reached more than 2 thousand people and has created jobs for 8 people.

This by no means is a comprehensive list on how to master the art of pitching. However, differentiating yourself from a bunch of companies saying the same thing can really help make the difference. So next time you pitch for your company, please do follow these steps. And if it works (or it worked before), do mention it in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Next Venture Corp (P1), Social Business Youth Alliance/ Prito Reza Productions (P2), Shishir Water (P3).

Writer: Farhan Uddin

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