So, you’ve decided to dive into the rough and challenging waters of the tech startup world. As a visionary, you’ve got a great idea for a new product or service and perhaps the expertise to execute it. Sooner or later though, you’ll need to clearly communicate and pitch your idea to potential business partners, employees, investors, customers and the media. While this can be an intimidating part of the startup process, here are tips that can help you avoid sinking like a stone.
1. Get Your Story Straight
Selling ideas lies in the art of storytelling. Every idea and company has a story behind it – so does yours. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a mobile app or the next clean tech that will radically change the world’s energy future. Your startup’s narrative began with an idea to fill a human need. Storytelling is more than just pitching a product. People respond to stories that sell a vision as told from one human being to another. Identify your story, get it straight and be able to tell it during a 30 second elevator ride, or a five-minute investor pitch.
2. Plan on Paper First
Chances are the idea for your startup began as some scribbled notes on a pad, or maybe even a cocktail napkin. The point is: you wrote things down about your company and technology to keep ideas organized. This shouldn’t be different for your pitch. Trying to keep your pitch in your head doesn’t do you justice. Once you have the story you want to tell in your head, get an outline down on paper. This way you can quickly add things, scratch things out, move points around, etc. You’d be surprised how much a pitch can evolve from your initial thoughts.
3. Tailor Your Pitch
The first rule of any type of communication is to know your audience. Tailoring your pitch doesn’t mean changing your story. Your core story will stay the same, but it’s all in how you present and tell it depending on whom you’re telling it to. This recent NY Times article highlights a collection of literary classics from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Moby Dick” targeted to toddlers. It’s important to think about how to tell the same fundamental story in a slightly different way depending on if you’re pitching an investor or end consumer.
4. Be Careful How You Use Numbers
It’s easy and tempting to overuse numbers in a pitch – especially when presenting to investors. This isn’t to say that numbers aren’t important – they are. However, especially for shorter pitches, you won’t have time to dig into financial projections. If an investor truly wants to understand the numbers, he or she will do a much deeper dive into your business and ask to follow up with you for more information. Your pitch is simply designed to help get them to that point. If you do use numbers, always place them in context of the larger story.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs try to communicate or pitch their idea off the top of their heads. Winging a pitch that you haven’t practiced and polished over and over again rarely works. You may think you know what you want to say, but under the pressure of having only 90 seconds to sell your idea in front of a panel of investors, not having your pitch down to a science can result in disaster. Practice by yourself, in front of others, or with a presentation coach, but practice!
You’ve invested strategic thinking, time, energy and practice into your startup. Do the same for your communication and pitching for maximum success!