Pitch competitions can make the difference between success and failure for a business, providing access to funding, mentors, advisors, and partners or potential clients who can take you to the next level.
What is a Pitch Competition?
In a pitch competition, a number of business owners give a verbal presentation about their company. Time limits vary from event to event, but presentations are typically 3 to 10 minutes.
Depending on the type and scale of the competition, prizes range from hundreds of dollars to millions. Aside from industry-specific competitions, they are usually judged by a panel of VCs or successful business owners from a variety of industries.
Every judge will bring unique perspectives, preferences, and biases, but here are a few tips you can use to increase your chances of winning.
Start with a story
As we shared in “5 Tips for Winning Small Business Grants,” people remember stories, not numbers.
One way to catch your audience’s attention from the beginning is to start with a story. Frame the problem your business is solving in terms of a story based around your persona. Or tell the story of a customer whose life your business improved. What problem did they face before your company provided a solution?
This creates the perfect setup for introducing your business: the solution you provide, why it’s unique (or different), and how it makes a difference for the people you serve.
The same principle applies to the end of your presentation: end with a story, or simply finish the one you started with, sharing how your business provided a solution for the customer or persona.
Focus on the impact
Rather than spending the bulk of your presentation on the nuts and bolts of your business, focus on impact. There are two types you can address:
The Impact Your Business Has on the World
How is the world better off because your business exists? Who are you serving, and how does your business improve their lives? Are you meeting an unmet need for an underserved population?
The Impact the Funding will Have on Your Business
This is a slightly different angle on the same idea. Focus on how the funding will let you create a greater impact on the people you serve.
Will the prize money let you double the number of people you reach? Will it let you hire more staff? If so, what is the impact of having a larger staff?
Why Focusing on the Impact Matters
Answering these types of questions in your presentation creates a much more compelling narrative for why the judges should choose your business to receive the prize money.
This strategy is especially effective when judges are not familiar with your industry or type of business. Even if they don’t understand your company, they can understand why it matters.
Keep It Simple. (And “It” Means “Everything”)
You may be tempted to wow the audience by creating the fanciest presentation, with stylish slide transitions, animations, music, or other enhancements.
But at the end of the day, the judges are more interested in the substance of your presentation. Keep things as simple as possible.
Use pictures on your slides instead of words wherever possible. Don’t use ten words when one will do. Keep graphics clean and simple so the viewer can take in its meaning in a glance. The more time the judges spend deciphering your slides, the less time they’re listening to your pitch.
Leave Time to Spare
Never use all the time allotted for your pitch. This gives you time to address technical issues, temporary laryngitis, or any other issue that comes up without throwing off your entire presentation or forcing you to rush through the rest.
As a rule of thumb, try to leave at least 20% of the time free. If the pitch is 10 minutes, cap your presentation at 8. If you have 5 minutes, stop at 4.
Practice, Practice, Practice… with an Audience
Ask a few mentors, advisors, or fellow business owners to listen to your pitch and give you feedback.
They can tell you where your story is most compelling, note any areas that were confusing or unclear, and help you anticipate what types of questions the judges might ask.
Want Help Perfecting Your Pitch?
EnrichHER’s Business Financing Accelerator can help you craft the perfect pitch to sell your story and win over judges to increase your chances of capturing more capital. You’ll have access to weekly office hours with experts who will give you personal coaching on how to put your best foot forward, how to design your slides most effectively, and take other steps to create “pitch perfect” presentations. Click here to learn more and enroll.
EnrichHER is a financial technology platform that matches revenue-generating companies led by women and founders of color to individual and institutional sources of funding. Since 2017, EnrichHER has deployed upwards of $4 million through its platform and matched business-owners to $13 million in working capital through its Accelerator. By providing capital, coaching, and connections, we are fueling the fastest-growing demographic of business owners. Our network has engaged with over 23,000 advocates through its digital community and in-person activations.
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