Getting it right can mean the difference between success and failure and that is why most people feel so much pressure to get them right the first time. First impressions really are vitally important, and coming across as boastful or even too zealous can kill even the best pitch before it really gets off the ground. Finding the right balance of passion and confidence, while providing the right information in the right format can be difficult, but once you’ve crafted a formula for pitching your startup perfectly, you will have no trouble drawing in investors, clients, and partners. But how do you find that balance? Here are five mistakes to avoid when creating a pitch for your startup:
1. Being too pushy
When you are pitching your startup it is important to be assertive and persuasive, while avoiding the trap of being too pushy. No one likes to feel that they are being sold something, even if they arrive at your meeting knowing that you are going to try to convince them to do business with your new company. Even VC’s and angel investors don’t want to hear just about what’s excellent and perfect about your company, they also want to hear the challenges, as the challenges are the real reason someone will be willing to invest in your startup. If you start listing off your accomplishments and how spectacular your startup is right out of the gate, not only will your audience feel like you are being pushy, they are less likely to see the need to invest or partner with you.
On the other hand, if you use personal anecdotes to show (rather than tell) the value of your startup, your audience will be able to come to their own decision about you and your company. Don’t be boastful—being modest about your accomplishments, even if they are incredible, is endearing and those listening to your pitch won’t feel as though they are being force fed an opinion.
2. Relying on buzzwords
Many people will rely heavily on buzzwords when writing their pitch, because they are easy to use and seem to convey a lot of information about your startup in a single phrase. What they really do, however, is confuse your audience. Saying that your company is a “game changer,” may sound like a good thing, but the phrase itself is essentially meaningless. It does not provide any real information about your startup and what it intends to do to change the industry. Plus, these phrases have likely been said a hundred times by a hundred other entrepreneurs.
Instead of relying on buzzwords to build your startup pitch deck, use real stats and real, quantifiable information. The same goes for over complicated spreadsheets full of complex financials. Save those for the accountants, and only show well formatted and simple spreadsheets, if you do at all. No matter who you are pitching to, they should be able to instantly understand what you are talking about, and see that you have real proof to back up any claims you make.
3. Working from a script
When pitching your startup to investors, especially if those investors are important, many people will make one of the worst pitch mistakes: reading from a script or working off of a PowerPoint. While PowerPoint can be useful during a pitch, reading straight off of the slide or straight from a notecards can kill the energy in a room. Nothing sounds less sincere than a person reading their lines off of a card. You want your pitch to feel organic—even if it’s not organic at all. Feel free to use visuals, but build a personal connection with your audience before dimming the lights and starting in on the slides. I highly recommend developing a habit of practicing your pitch, you should start-off by pitching your startup in front of friends and family, get their honest feedback before you start to meet experienced investors.
4. Not getting a second opinion
This would be like walking out the door to pick up a date without asking someone to make sure there isn’t spinach stuck in your teeth. You probably won’t realize there’s a problem until it’s far too late. Obviously, you are probably independent and feel as though you can take care of writing your pitch alone. However, just like the spinach, you might not be able to see a problem with your pitch until someone else points it out to you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who will tell you the truth. Getting honest feedback is the only way to improve, and in many cases, is the only well you will know if you are doing or saying something distracting. If you have ever had to give a presentation for a class, for example, you might have sat down only to have a friend tell you that the way you fidget with your shirt hem is very distracting. You don’t want your voice, your clothes, the facts you present, or the way that you present them to detract from your overall message.
5. Not trusting your gut
If you show up to your pitch with everything prepared, take the temperature of the room, and feel that your PowerPoint just won’t draw these investors in, don’t be afraid to scrap it. Learning to be flexible is not only important for creating the perfect pitch, but also in running a business, so start preparing now. If you find yourself in a room of investors that just aren’t feeling your vibe, be flexible enough to change things up.
The best way to learn to be flexible is to really know what you want to present to your audience. There is a difference between having a pitch memorized and really knowing that pitch. When you have it memorized, you will be tripped up by a sudden interruption or question, but when you know it, you have the flexibility to answer questions as they arise, leave out information that won’t do you any favours for your particular audience, or introduce a new point you might have left out of the original pitch, if you get the sense it will reel this particular group in.
7. Dissing the competition
This one is going to be short in sweet, the rule here is to not talk about your competitors like you are somehow better, and they are worse, you must give any large competition the respect they deserve. For example: instead of saying your idea is “better than Facebook and Twitter together”, say that your idea is “taking the best out of the two successful platforms and combining the better features together with an additional feature that users are missing today”, now doesn’t that sound much better? Avoid badmouthing anyone when you are pitching your startup to investors, people want to hear about why you are good and not why others are “bad”.
8. Everyone has idea, show that you can execute
Here is a fact: everyone has ideas, the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failing one mainly comes down to execution, when you are pitching make sure everyone in the room knows that you are a hard-working person that can move mountains. Many people pitching their startup talk about “the great idea” while in reality they should be making sure everyone understands the “game plan”. Investors are interested in knowing how an idea is going to grow into a successful business, so when you are pitching your startup make sure that everyone will understand, that you are as an entrepreneur a much bigger asset than any idea.