How To Craft An Impressive Pitch
In 2015, NAB launched an Impact Investment Readiness Fund, designed to help give social enterprises a final push that would enable them to take on investment.
It’s a good idea: NAB will pay for up to $100,000 of development work and professional services, if you can pitch that your enterprise is nearly ready to scale.
I was part of a team that travelled around the country to meet with 60 groups, to see if they were suitable for the fund, or if we could help get them over the line.
We spent 45 minutes with each group – long enough for them to pitch to us, answer questions and discuss the specifics of the fund.
My job was to sketch out a Business Model Canvas while we talked - like a court stenographer.
It soon became apparent that the majority of groups can’t pitch. It’s a bit sad, because most of them have amazing material to work with – we’d often get to the very end of the session before we had the “A Ha!” moment of understanding what they actually did.
Here are a few ways you can instantly improve your pitching skills – whether you’re talking with investors or at a family barbeque.
Tell your audience the vital bits of information up front:
Your enterprise name, what business you’re in, and your social mission.
If talking to an investor or partner, also mention what you’re hoping that they will do, otherwise they spend the whole pitch trying to deduce what you’re asking for.
“We run Notes of Joy, we sell socially conscious stationary to private schools, that enable girls in Thailand to get a secondary education”
“Fido is an organic dog treat company that runs on a subscription model, and supports no-kill shelters across the country”
“Our enterprise, Artemis Windows, employs asylum seekers to clean shopfront windows in the inner eastern suburbs. We’re looking for $120,000 to scale up the business”
Explain the Business Model
Everybody should be able to describe their model in under three sentences.
You’re looking for a quick story that highlights the customer, their problem, your solution, and why they’ll love you.
Here’s a great template:
You know how ____(group)__________ need/want to ___________.
Well we ______(action)____________ which can help ___________.
That means ______(end result)_______________________________.
Desirability, Feasibility, Viability
You’re ideally spending a minute on each of these, however you think most appropriate.
The audience needs to know:
· Why does your customer find this desirable (compared with what they currently do)
· How you’re able to make the business work (staff, patents, resources, unfair advantage)
· What makes the business financially sustainable (margins, volumes and breakeven point)
Now that your audience know what you’re talking about, they’ll be curious about you and what made you start the company.
This is your chance to talk about your background and experience, and why you’re the right person to be running the business.
It’s also your chance to go for the heartstrings: talk about why you’re passionate about the social cause.
This is gold. As the audience, I love hearing social entrepreneurs talk about what motivates them, it’s captivating and sincere. This is a huge advantage that most businesses don’t have, but it needs to be used at the right time – not at the very beginning of the pitch.
When talking about social impact, assume your audience have no prior knowledge of the issue. Avoid using jargon and statistics that people outside the industry won’t understand, there’s time for that later.
Not a full Powerpoint presentation of graphs and charts, instead bring photos, sketches and prototypes.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.
This is not a gift or a bribe for your audience, it’s an example of what you’re selling, and it brings a lot of credibility to the rest of your pitch.
During the NAB Roadshow, one applicant was a business that sold socially responsible socks, (no sweatshops, ethical supply chain, etc).
The group brought in a sample pack to show us what they sold (we didn’t keep them), and it completely changed the session. My colleague Annie felt the socks, and immediately recognised that they were great quality – you can’t do that with a photo.
Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule
If you do have to use powerpoint, Guy Kawasaki’s rule of thumb is genius:
Minimum of size 30 font.
Most entrepreneurs talk way too much, and about details that don’t matter. This rule forces simplicity, clarity and brevity.
His book, The Art of the Start 2.0 is excellent, and even includes some example structures of how the 10 slides should be arranged.
Have an ask – and think it through!
Our first ever Dragons’ Den was memorable.
Out of the three pitches, two ended in tears.
No judgement, those were actually the best two. The other one was forgettable.
The first presenter stuck out in my mind. Great entrepreneur, who went on to be one of our first ever Incubatees.
She was asking the panel for $9,000, to buy some equipment for their business.
Good idea, well pitched. Then the dragons asked:
“What investment terms are you proposing?”
Long pause from the entrepreneur, then
“Oh, I’ll pay it back!”
An awkward pause in the room. That wasn’t the question.
The presenter had focused solely on the idea, and not the terms of investment.
She had asked for $9,000 – it never occurred to her that investors would want interest.
Strangely, after such a good pitch, if she had confidently said
“I am looking for a patient capital loan of $9,000, at 0% interest for 24 months, because this will enable the business to….”
She probably would have been successful.
Instead, it was the lack of forethought that worried the dragons.
If you want debt, think through the interest rate and repayment terms.
If you want to sell equity (% ownership), have a good justification for how you’ve valued your enterprise.
If you’re interested in the psychology of pitching, I highly recommend Oren Klaff’s book Pitch Anything