Pitch Perfect: Turning Your Business Plan into a Story August 27, 2019 RICCentre You had an innovative idea and you’ve transformed that idea into a great product. You have a validated value proposition and business model combined with a strong team and an attractive market opportunity. So, what’s next? You need to pitch your product to a panel of potential investors. Unsure of how to create a pitch deck? Pitching is challenging, but even more so when the human attention span clocks in at approximately 8 seconds. If the panel is still interested after 8 seconds, then they’ll decide to invest more time, and ultimately more money, into your venture. But, how can you create powerful narratives while also employing effective communication strategies? Understanding the basics of pitching At its core, a pitch is a persuasive conversation you’re having with a panel of potential investors. Pitches are often more emotional and story-driven, while business plans are more analytical. When you create a pitch deck, you must hook your audience by approaching the problem in a unique way—usually through storytelling. Place your audience directly into the story by beginning with a statistic, a client profile, a relatable scenario, or a thought-provoking question. “I think that the hook, at the beginning, is something that people often don’t think about or miss the importance of. The hook should be a very engaging, maybe a one-minute story,” explains Alex Senson, Senior Business Strategist at the RIC Centre. “It establishes the presenter’s credibility and sets the context for the rest of the presentation.” Throughout the pitch, maintain your energy and enthusiasm to keep the audience engaged. Limit your use of jargon and avoid using unfamiliar acronyms. If your audience doesn’t understand what you’re pitching, they’ll quickly become disinterested. How to create a pitch deck Your “pitch deck,” or presentation slides, should convey your information clearly without being overly descriptive or text-heavy. We encourage that each slide focus on one significant takeaway. Your pitch deck should: Start with a problem. Tell a story that explains the fundamental problem you’re trying to solve and helps the audience identify personally with the problem. If it’s a problem that your audience is experiencing, then they’re more likely to pay attention. Are you creating a new market? If so, why aren’t the existing solutions good enough? Offer a solution. Now that you’ve introduced the problem, you should offer your audience the solution—your product. Describe what your product is and what type of customers you plan to target. Use a diagram, a photograph, or a video demonstration to prove that you can deliver a real innovative product or solution. Investors want to know how your technology addresses the problem and whether your solution is better, faster, or cheaper than other products on the market. Build your credibility with evidence. For new start-ups, one of the key aspects of a pitch is establishing your credibility. Simply put, the more credible you are, the more convincing your pitch. You can verify your authority in the market by providing track records, published articles, growth rates, number of pre-orders, or third-party validation from partners, users, and paying customers. Calculate the market size. Quantify the size of the problem you are solving. When identifying the size of your total addressable market, inaccurate and fictional figures can harm not only your credibility, but your entire pitch. Instead, conduct research and aim to quote a credible industry source. To calculate the target market opportunity of a segment, take the total number of potential customers multiplied by your product price. Senson explains that calculating market size is one of the most common mistakes people make when pitching. “Count [the customers] and if you sold your solution to all of them, how much money would you make? That’s your target market size,” Senson says. Provide a clear revenue model. Investors want to know how your business makes money. Identify who pays for your product or service. Mention your selling price, fixed and variable costs, and whether it’s recurring revenue, licenses or royalties. Most importantly, make this part of your pitch extremely clear. Identify your go-to-market strategy. Explain how you acquire customers, the cost of acquiring customers, and the total lifetime value of a customer. Emphasize what channels you will utilize: direct-to-customer, online, business-to-business. Address the competition. Do your research on all potential competitors. Search for analyst reports, whitepapers, or reports in the trade press. Explain to the investor panel your plan for positioning yourself against competitors. Show that you understand your place in the market. What makes your technology unique and hard to replicate? Communicate a clear ask. Conclude your presentation with the same amount of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement you had when you began. Highlight the most important points from your pitch and provide your audience with a call to action. Are you looking for an investment, partnership, business advice? Be as specific and clear as possible. Preparing for the pitch presentation For Senson, one of the things that distinguishes a successful pitch from a poor one is that a good pitch pre-answers many of the questions that may arise from the audience. Senson emphasizes the importance of listening to feedback from family or team members so you can create a clear and understandable pitch. You can also prepare by using RIC Centre resources and advisors to anticipate what questions may be asked. Some potential questions include: What are the major obstacles to your success? Do you have intellectual property? Trade secrets? How are you defending your competitive advantage? How did you calculate the size of the market and its growth rate? How do you compete in terms of price, performance, and support? It’s also important to remember not to get defensive when answering the investors’ questions during the Q&A period after your pitch. Instead, remain calm and back up all your answers with facts. While finalizing your pitch preparation, Senson suggests being confident, well-spoken, clear, and passionate. “Know your audience and deliver your pitch in alignment with the purpose of why they’re there and who they are,” Senson says. Need help landing the perfect pitch? RIC Centre’s next pitching workshop is January 28th, 2020. Register Now About the AuthorJessica CabralCommunications InternJessica Cabral is a recent graduate from the Professional Writing and Communication program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. In her four years at UTM, Jessica has worked on various campus publications and strengthened her passion for writing and editing.