A little less than a year ago, I went on the stage on the last day of the Summit, with two other finalists of the ALPHA pitch session. And … Paddy called my name! We had won the ALPHA pitch competition. Let me share a bit about how this (almost did not) happened, and hopefully some of that will be helpful for Summit ALPHA companies to prep their pitch this year.
I’m an engineer by training. I like rational things, I like core tech. I naturally tend to respect more what is under the hood than the hood itself, or whatever is wrapping the engine. Naturally, pitching the company seems less important than building the core of our products, especially with a highly tech project like placemeter. It seems like a necessary waste of time, to which you would just dedicate the sufficient efforts to become OK at. And then get back to selling and coding.
One thing I learned at Techstars and then at the Websummit pitch competition last year is that extreme pitching skills are not only necessary to share and project the vision of your company, but also to build it! Making your message clear, compact and powerful actually also makes your product clear and powerful.
So this my 2 cents advice for you if you are going to pitch at the Summit pitch competition: don’t just be good enough to get your ideas through. Shoot for the moon.
Become AMAZING at pitching.
Because this is the way your company will become amazing – and this is also how you might end up pitching on the huge main stage for the finals at the ALPHA pitch competition.
Now, practically, here are some tidbits I hope can help you get to the big finals next month:
- Focus on the story. Preparing a pitch should start with a word document not a powerpoint document. Write down your story, build slides next.
- Slow yourself down when you talk. Use silences and pauses a lot. When you pause to highlight one thing you said, literally count to 3 in your head.
- Remove a LOT of words. Every word counts. Choose them VERY carefully. In a typical first draft of your narrative, you have 2-3 times too many words. Cut down! It is much easier than you would think.
- Practice a LOT. I practiced my pitch for a whole month, at least once per day, plus some longer, 2-3 hour sessions refining it.
- Get a TON of feedback. Practice in front of lots of people, ask for candid feedback.
- Practice out loud. Do it in the street, in the subway, at the grocery store. You’ll look like a lunatic. Practice with people throwing stuff at you, shouting, tickling you. This will help you keep your composure whatever happens on stage.
- Know your pitch beyond “by heart”. Once you know it by heart, you need to repeat it again and again to get to the point where you are extremely comfortable with it and it becomes natural again.
So as we say in France, “merde” – saying “good luck” brings bad luck. And I’ll be watching you guys, please make me proud and get us that trophy!
PS: if you have 3 minutes to spare, look at my pitch last year.
(this was originally posted on Alex’s blog)