Tip top pitches - how to build a great business pitch

This week saw the launch of The Pitch 2011 – an annual competition that aims to find some of the most exciting new businesses in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Entrants are invited to pitch their business ideas live onstage, to an audience of business gurus. The ultimate winner will receive business support worth a total of £50,000.

While the English heats are now closed, entries are still being welcomed from entrepreneurs based in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

But pitching can be a daunting task, particularly if you have never done it before. It is, however, a important part of the process of securing investment – and it is something that, as a business owner, you may well have to contend with at some point in the future.

We have compiled some top tips to help you pitch successfully – whether or not that is as part of The Pitch 2011.

1. Believe in your pitch

If you don’t believe in your pitch, your audience certainly won’t. Even the faintest whiff of doubt will be easy to pick up – so make sure that you are confident in your own idea, and in your delivery, before you begin.

2. Concentrate on your audience

Despite the fact that you are talking about your own business, the pitching process isn’t really about you – it’s about your audience. Think about what they want, and highlight the ways in which you can give that to them. Similarly, remember to personalise your pitch. No two audiences are the same, and your pitch should reflect that.

3. Steer clear of cliche

Maybe your business is going to set the world alight. Perhaps it is a game-changer. Maybe you’re pitching something that’s never been seen before. All these things might be true – but it’s imperative that you avoid these tired clichés. Here’s a simple test: is there anything in your pitch that sounds like it could come from the mouth of an Apprentice candidate? If so, ditch it.

4. Be honest

It is imperative that you are honest throughout your pitch. Don’t exaggerate. Any inaccuracies will come out eventually anyway, when the potential investor does their due diligence.

5. Identify a need

A great product is all very well, but if there is no necessity or market for it you will struggle to find investment. Make sure that you explain the need for your product, and outline exactly how it satisfies that need.

6. Be concise

The best pitches are short, snappy, easy to follow, and to the point. The purpose of the pitch isn’t to give a detailed breakdown of your financial forecasts – it is to grab the attention of potential investors and make them believe in your idea. This is often best achieved in just a couple of minutes.

7. Avoid jargon

If you are pitching to investors from outside your industry, don’t presume that they are familiar with the technical ins and outs of your business. Explain your pitch using clear language that, while not patronising, is easy to understand for those with little prior knowledge.

8. Don’t be gimmicky

Gimmicks tend not to work. Those big foam pointy hands you were thinking of using? Get rid of them. Props and mock-ups can be useful in some circumstances, but they should only be used when necessary. The strength of your idea should speak for itself.

9. Get the important stuff in early

A great pitch grabs the attention from the very first second. Consider beginning with an ‘elevator pitch’ – a short overview that explains exactly what your business does in less than a minute. Explain very briefly why your business is exciting, before getting down to the nitty gritty.

10. Practice

Finally, you should remember that pitching doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Indeed, many people find it a very scary experience. You can help to ease your nerves, and to ensure that your pitch goes off without a hitch, by practicing beforehand. Where possible, have a friend or family member (someone who it not involved in the day-to-day affairs of the business) act as an audience and point out elements that need improving.

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