Although I felt happy that day, it felt like I had failed as well. It pushed me to retrospect on what was it that really worked that day and what didn’t. I have realised, in order to successfully ‘sell or pitch an idea’, you need two key elements:
- The Vision. Make people dream of a world ‘with your idea’. Help them relate to the ‘need’ for the idea.
- The Product. Help people understand the solution/idea in the shortest and crispest manner. Make them curious to ask for more details.
I obviously wasn’t super successful in the latter, but probably sold the vision so strong that it made up for my shortfalls. However, in most real-life scenarios, you would want to have a stronghold on both. Having been a part of multiple VC and other pitch sessions, here are a few tips that I have to share:
This one’s kind of obvious. Everything starts with this. You must know your product in and out. No tradeoff for this one.
Many people ignore this but it’s probably even more important than the first point. You must know of the loopholes in your idea or things that you aren’t yet sure of. You’d want to avoid having a brain freeze when someone asks you a question and you think: “s***, that makes sense. Why didn’t I think of it!”. This will help you prepare better.
“Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know. — Socrates
Things don’t always go as planned. Even in the incident above, I had to completely redo my script just when our name was announced (because one of the things didn’t go as planned). Probably try to define certain ‘key moments’ for your pitch and your pitch could revolve around them. For example, you may want people to touch and feel your product during your pitch or you may want to ask the audience a key question. As long as you are clear about a couple of such key points, it’s easy to repurpose your script on demand.
Talking about your idea with confidence is half the battle won. When on stage, there’s no room for confusion. It’s fine to not know something (you can’t be 100% prepared), but you need to be confident. Remember, it’s YOU AND ONLY YOU who knows about your idea the best. No one else!
“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” — Dr. Benjamin Spock
Being calm actually is a trick to being confident. Don’t be stressed about the pitch. Maybe do something that you really love before the pitch, like watching cartoons, playing a football match (not specifically), etc.
“I never lose; either win or learn.” — Nelson Mandela
Pitch sessions can get boring for the audience/ jury pretty fast (especially if they are bad). The last thing you want is them looking around (or worse, at their phones) while you are talking enthusiastically. Take charge if they do. Engage with them. Always try to keep a couple of interactive points in your script.
“Beware of monotony; it’s the mother of all deadly sins.” — Edith Wharton
You must have a compelling story to tell and must also narrate it in a compelling way. While the former is a lot to do with knowing the product, its value to the customer, etc., for the latter, I recommend doing some theatre workshops. It is a great way to become a dreamer yourself, which of course is the first step for you to enable others to dream with you. 😛
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic.” — Seth Godin
Here’s a great example of storytelling. Don’t want to reveal much before you watch it. Enjoy the video.
A presentation must always have a Ta-Da moment. Master the art of revealing just enough and at the right time. Think of it as a Christopher Nolan movie climax wherein, no matter how confused you may have been throughout, everything seems to fall in place and you are hooked. The timing is critical. Build the context and curiosity till a specific point and then “bam!” — have the reveal.
“One more thing…” — Steve Jobs