Pitching competitions seem to be all the rage now in our part of the Pacific so I figured I’d share my recent experiences making successful pitches.
Given the growing support for entrepreneurship and encouraging folks (especially youth) to find solutions to our challenges in the Pacific it makes sense that pitching is becoming more common.
Donor agencies or investors don’t just hand you money if you have a good idea but make a competition out of it and require you to pitch your idea to a panel of judges.
(Skip the backstory – go straight to the Pitching Tips)
Generally, these competitions give a problem statement or challenge area that you’re asked to find an innovative solution to and you’re expected to pitch your solution to a panel of judges.
Usually there are a few teams involved so it takes a maximum of 10 minutes – 7 minutes for your pitch and 3 minutes to take questions from the judges.
This poses a challenge – how do you effectively communicate what your solution is, what you (and your team) are all about, and convince the judges to pick you.
In 7 minutes or less.
I have a grand total of 3 pitches under my belt – all successful and earned €22,000 in investments for my company.
In November 2017 at the climate/blockchain intersection hackathon event Hack4Climate in Bonn I pitched our team’s evoke concept. We were one of the top 5 team to win the event which allowed us to pitch at one of the public spaces at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23).
In December 2018, my company TraSeable Solutions was invited to the Pacific 2018 AgriHack Lab in Tonga organised by the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA).
I pitched our TraSeable Farms product and long story short, we won €5,000 – you can read about it here.
Earlier this month we picked up another €17,000 at the PIFON and Innov4AGPacific organised Investment Readiness and Financial Inclusion event in Nadi where we pitched scaling up our TraSeable Farms product to reach 1,000 farmers/users in Fiji within 1 year.
I’m no expert but here’s what I’ve found helpful in preparing for pitches.
1. Do the Basics Right
Dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s”.
You’ll be better prepared mentally for the pitch if you knew that you’ve provided everything the competition organisers have asked for.
And know the in’s and out’s of your pitch and the value you’re offering.
Things often don’t go to plan when you’re standing in front of a room full of people so when you do forget something you be should confident enough to continue talking without it being noticeable.
2. Know Who Needs Convincing – the Judges
Pitches aren’t a popularity contest.
You could have an awesome pitch that was funny and resonated with the audience and got heaps of applause but they aren’t the ones who need convincing – the Judges are.
Know your judges, their professional backgrounds, what organisations they represent, how they fit into the challenge areas, and what their motivations and expectations might be. This will give you insight into the types of questions they’ll likely ask.
Then craft your pitch to convince them.
3. Differentiate your Pitch
Know your competition and gauge how good they are. You can learn a lot about someone by talking to them and observing their body language and mannerisms.
Often you get people who are either not good/confident public speakers or don’t know how to put together a good pitch deck (presentation). Or their idea is not good and they are unconvincing.
So, it’s really easy to be memorable – use good graphics and minimal text in your pitch deck, speak confidently and audibly, use humor but don’t overdo it, and believe in what you’re pitching.
4. Tell a Story – Connect
Make your user the hero of your story.
Most pitches go something like this:
- Problem we’re solving
- Our solution and why it’s THE solution
- How we’ll earn a gazillion dollars…and save the World with it
- Why we’re the THE only ones to deliver it
This is fine but if you’re a judge and have been listening to this over and over it becomes boring very quickly.
This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself by the story you tell – the trick is to retain the core elements of the pitch but tell it in a more convincing and natural way that people can connect with.
In Germany I spoke emotionally about how climate change was affecting a country I’ve been to and know people that live there – Kiribati. In Tonga and Fiji I empathised with the farmer that just wants to make a decent living off his/her land.
So switch it up – research innovative and narrative storytelling, learn strategies to convince people like loss-aversion, understand what triggers people and learn to evoke emotion, and make the user the hero of the story.
By the end of the pitch the judges should believe you.