Ah, the joys of pitching. Your entire master plan squeezed into a few sentences, a room filled with powerful strangers in charge of your future and just seconds to impress them. Who doesn’t love a quick dip in a shark tank?
Unfortunately quite a lot of people. Luckily for them, pitching coach David Beckett is here to help.
Beckett has spent decades mastering the art of public speaking. He first honed his skills through giving over 1,000 company presentations over 16 years at Canon before moving on to the crunchier craft of startup pitches.
In 2013, Beckett founded Best3Minutes, which offers in-person and online training in his method. The techniques have now been taught to more than 1,800 startups and scale-ups, which together have raised over 420 million euros.
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“My goal isn’t to tell people what to say,” Beckett tells TNW. “My goal is to give them a framework to find their story, practice it, and let it resonate with their audience.”
At TNW Valencia On March 30th, Beckett will be offering his latest pitching workshop. Ahead of the session, he shared some of his top tips for startups.
1. Attune to your audience
Your pitch needs to match what your audience wants. Who are you? What is important to you? How can you impress her?
Imagine you have created a crypto powered parking app. You could explain the benefits of storing driver data in a distributed ledger, but few people enjoy the torture of blockchain.
“Often when we’re working on something day in, day out, we just want to tell people what we’ve built — but the audience might not care,” says Beckett.
“Execution comes from your product, process and team.
A stronger pitch will illustrate an effect in the real world. You could say (if it’s true of course) that people waste 20 minutes every day trying to find a parking space. With a click of a button, your app cuts the time down to 60 seconds.
However, this example may not excite everyone. To get your audience to do what you want, you need to know who they are.
2. Focus on the problem and the solution
Your pitch needs to focus on pain and gain. The should fit into a simple statement that shows what you can do for customers.
A human problem makes the problems more understandable. What does the pain do? how big is the problem Will people pay to solve it? How did you validate that? Investors want those answers.
“Things that particularly trigger them are the size of the opportunity and the execution of that opportunity,” says Beckett. “And the execution part is product, progress and team.”
3. Set a clear goal
A successful pitch leads to action. The ultimate goal is often a set investment, but startups usually have to take a different first step. This can be a follow-up meeting, a performance, or scanning a QR code that shows the audience more information. The most important result is maintaining a connection.
Beckett’s former students range from furniture giant to Dutch startup Lalaland.
Whatever your goal, make it clear and memorable. YYou may only have a few minutes to convince your audience to take action.
“Of course you can’t communicate all the details at this time, but that’s not really the goal,” says Beckett. “The goal of the pitch is to take the next step.”
4. Use sticky notes to organize your thoughts
Once you have a goal, you need a strategy to achieve it. Beckett guesses Using sticky notes to get the ideas out of your head and in a Action. To cut down on preparation time, he also recommends downloading his Pitch Canvas, a free storytelling tool for structuring your pitch.
“It’s really difficult to deliver the pitch with confidence and passion if you don’t get the story right,” he says. “Once you get the story straight, you can start the delivery part.”
5. Demonstrate your worth
Investors want to see evidence that you can execute your plan. If you have customer loyalty, explain who uses the product. If you have a demo, show that the product works. If time is short, a screenshot may suffice.
“If you can convince them that this is a business and not a concept, they will think differently about it,” says Beckett. “And what convinces people that this is a business and not a concept is a working product and customers.”
“Once they say things out loud, they often find what is written too technical.
If your product is still a concept, there are other ways to demonstrate your value. One shows that you have the passion to put in the hours. Another is any funding you have already raised.
“There are a couple of things that come out of it. First, people trust you. Second, they’ve gone through a due diligence process, so they’re unlikely to be in for any surprises.”
6. Captivate her with your opening
You need to capture the interest of your audience quickly. Investors can see up 1,000 parking spaces a year and always short on time. To get their attention, your opening needs to catch the eye.
If it doesn’t land, Beckett says, their support is “almost certainly a no-go.”
7. Polish delivery
Once you have a prototype pitch, it’s time to verbalize it. Practice saying it out loud in front of an audience and use the feedback to refine your presentation. You can then step back and reassess the clarity, concentration and rhythm.
“Once people start saying things out loud, they often find that what they’ve written is pretty technical and they want to make it more direct,” says Beckett.
Beckett’s master class isn’t the only one TNW-Valencia pitching session. Startups will also take the stage for a field battle.
Your delivery should highlight the words that matter. Beckett uses the example of a fictional delivery startup. In a pitch, the founder plans to say, “We’ll deliver a sustainable and energizing donut to meetings near you.”
If their focus is proximity, they can emphasize that donuts will be delivered “to a meeting NEAR YOU.” If their USP is sustainability, they can emphasize that “we deliver a SUSTAINABLE and energizing donut”. When selling the energy effects, they can emphasize that it is a “SUSTAINABLE and energy-enhancing donut.”
Your delivery must also be connected on a human level — a crucial element of pitching. A single moment showing your passion for the project can make an enormous difference.
8. Manage your time with a script
In discussions of public speaking, the relative merits of spontaneity and planning are endlessly debated. For Beckett, the best balance depends on your allotted time.
With a half-hour company presentation, you may only need to remember the opening. However, if you have a short pitch, you probably need a full script.
“A three-minute pitch puts too much pressure on most people’s brains,” says Beckett. “If they don’t make a proper plan, they forget to say the things they really want to say and spend too much time on things that aren’t that important.”
9. Time for perfection
Beckett has done extensive research on our listening and speaking abilities. He has concluded that you should compose a maximum of 150 words per minute.
“If you speak faster, people can’t follow,” he says. “It’s best to speak a little slower so that people can process it. Get some air around the core messages, but with enough energy and speed.”
These 150 words fit into about nine sentences. A three-minute pitch typically consists of around 27 sentences. If you’re having trouble structuring your story, these rough boundaries can help divide the time.
And if that doesn’t allay the fear of being judged in a few minutes, just remember: it’s all over in a few minutes.
David Beckett will be speaking at TNW València, which takes place at the end of March. If you want to experience the event, we have something special for our loyal readers. Use the promo code TWVAL30 and get 30% off yours Conference Business Pass for TNW València.