I attended the finals for The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Award at City Hall yesterday and here are some things that I learned from the pitches and the interaction between the contestants and the judges that you might find useful in preparing for a pitch in the future.
- Anticipate what questions the judges might ask.
Every contestant was asked “what would you do with the £20,000 prize money?” It’s important to know how that prize money is going to be used. The judges seemed to be more interested in ideas that have already been prototyped or tested, rather than purely theoretical. This was mainly prevalent in ideas that dealt with tech or science, where it has been established theoretically but hasn’t actually been accomplished. The judges seemed to be interested in ideas that could really use the prize money to proceed to the next step. For example, ideas that can use that prize money to start production or manufacturing because they have received wide support and interest, and in some cases pre-orders, rather than using the prize money for future research.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Not one contestant had a cheat sheet while they pitched. They memorised their lines and rehearsed it many times. As the saying goes, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Sure enough, the winner of the tech category had a very strong pitch, very calm, very in control, I was very impressed by their pitch. On my way home, I forgot what his idea was until I gave it some thought, but I remembered being impressed and how memorable it was.
Impact is in how you deliver your pitch, more so than the words you use.
- Passion is contagious
Naturally, when someone is passionate about their idea it’s more interesting and exciting to listen to. When the “why” behind their idea comes to the forefront and the listeners make that connection, the pitch becomes much stronger, much more real and meaningful. Put your personal story of “why” with a good balance of other important facts about your idea and the pitch comes alive.
- Know your competitors
The judges always asked, “who else does what you do? How well are they doing it? If not, why hasn’t anyone else done it?” If you don’t know, then you haven’t done your research. On the other hand, the contestants that answered well also knew their idea very well. Knowing your competitors is also about knowing your own product/service inside and out.
- If your idea is complicated, do everything you can to simplify it
Some ideas included many technical jargon or concepts, which were hard for anyone who’s not in the field to understand what exactly it is they were trying to say. Try to break it down so that anyone who doesn’t have any knowledge or expertise in that field will understand.
- Be absolutely clear what problem you’re solving and how you’re going to solve it
Some contestants were very clear on what problem they were solving, but some weren’t as clear when it came to expressing how they solve that problem. Articulating the problem itself and how you solve it are equally important.
- Have fun and be confident!
The pitches that stood out were by contestants that exhibited confidence both in themselves and in their ideas. Practice your pitch in front of people and get as much feedback as you can before pitching. Practicing is the surest way to gain confidence in yourself and in your idea.
This was a learning experience for me as I had pitched as a semi-finalist in the prior week. I had a cheat sheet then, just in case I got nervous or lost my train of thought. But I realise now that the reason why I needed that cheat sheet is because I hadn’t practiced enough. Most people get nervous, that’s expected and it’s ok. But what makes a good pitch is a pitch that you’ve practiced so much that there’s no way you forget your lines, because it become second nature to you. It’s like singing along to your favourite song. You know it by heart and it’s not a matter of forgetting or not because you got this! The more you pitch, the more you understand your idea and where you want to go with it.
So, the next time you’re going to pitch, give yourself enough time to practice, rehearse, revise, practice, rehearse some more and then practice some more!
This article was brought to you by Rebecca Imaizumi, founder of The Unified Wolves, an experiential design agency that creates bespoke experiences through the performing arts. Follow us on Twitter/Instagram @TheUnifiedWolves, or visit us at www.TheUnifiedWolves.com for more content like this!