The Perfect Pitch - Tips From the Pros

June 23, 2016 Workshop: Perfect Pitch – For Creating and Delivering Winning Presentations

by Neil Thompson, Patent Agent & Writer


Does the idea of pitching an investor make you want to…abandon that idea? If so, you’re not alone. The pitch workshop, hosted by SDEE on June 23 at Hera Hub, was packed with people wanting to know how to perfect their pitch. Here are 10 tips from the experts. Specials thanks to our panelists Jeff Friedman (Tech Coast Angels), Larry Fromm (Achates Power), Diane West (2Connect), and Grace Chui-Miller (Correlation Ventures) for their nuggets of wisdom. 

  1. Get the audience’s attention within the first minute (Larry says you have one minute to grab investors’ attention before they tune out. Facebook photos won’t scroll through themselves after all. Larry also says that if you have an hour for the pitch, do it in 20 minutes, leaving the rest of the time for Q&A.)
  2. Tell the audience a story (Diane understands that investors need data to make an informed decision about your company, but she implores people who are pitching to couch that data in stories. Kids like stories. Adults do, too.)
  3. Know your audience (According to Diane, the story that the pitch audience wants to hear will vary. The technology-minded will want to hear a technology story. The business-minded? A business story. Find out beforehand who will be in the audience to tailor the story to the audience.)
  4. Be honest about challenges (One of Jeff’s pet peeves is presenters that say they have no problems. There are always issues to overcome. Be honest about them. The investors, if they choose to take you on, may be able to help.)
  5. Focus on your strengths, not your competitors’ weaknesses (Larry is immediately turned off by pitch presenters who disparage the competition. Chances are the pitch audience knows your competitors and all their warts. Focus on the benefits of your product and how it addresses the problem you’re solving.)
  6. Don’t claim that you have no competitors (When she hears a pitch presenter say there is no competition, Grace thinks either the pitch presenter didn’t do his homework or is lying to make his product seem more novel. Acknowledge the competition. It makes you seem more knowledgeable of the market.)
  7. Don’t include financial models with dramatic increases (If you’re a pitch presenter, do you have a slide in your deck that resembles a hockey stick, rising uniformly over a 10 year period then leveling off? Ditch that slide. Grace believes that 2-3 year financial projections are the best a pitch presenter can reasonably estimate. 10 years? 15 years? No way.)
  8. Always have backup slides with more detailed information on hand (In Jeff’s group at Tech Coast Angels, the pitch audience is often mixed. For example, a scientist may have technology-related questions, so have slides available that would address them. Don’t present those slides unless asked, especially if the majority of the audience is not science or technology savvy.)
  9. Be confident, not arrogant (Diane’s view is that there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The line consists of listening. Confidence is quiet. Arrogance is loud. Listen to learn the audience’s needs. Accept feedback.)
  10. Don’t try to get married on the first date (Larry is adamant that the purpose of a pitch is to start a conversation, not end it. Investors don’t typically write a check at the end of a pitch. The pitch is to get the pitch presenter to the next phase of the investors’ selection process. Hopefully, closing the deal will come soon enough!).

Neil Thompson is a writer, patent agent, and notary public among other things. You can read his musings on his blog “I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff…” at neilithompson.com.

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