Do you have a great business idea you want to share with the world?
Before you go shouting about it from the rooftops, ensure that you maximise the opportunity by presenting it right. Pitching is an important skill to develop, whether you are selling your business idea to potential investors or offering solutions to problems to decision-makers in the company you work for.
For the past four years, I have been working in the Careers & Employability Service at the University of Salford as a member of the Enterprise Team, where I have been heavily involved in creating and delivering business idea competitions with guest investors, such as our very own Innovating Future Business Competition. More importantly, I have also had the pleasure of helping our student and graduate entrepreneurs to improve their pitching so that their cutting-edge ideas make maximum impact at competitions such as Venturefest in Manchester.
But what makes a winning pitch? To answer that question, especially for those preparing for the final of Innovating Future Business on 10 May, I have joined forces with the 2016 winner of our Tech Angels: Building Bright Ideas competition – Lavinia Alexoiu, a final year Salford Business School student at the University of Salford – to share our top tips.
Lavinia’s idea, The Bright Club, creates a personalised career plan based on a student’s career goals and helps them to navigate their way to their dream job.
Tip 1: Use the power of storytelling
We have been telling stories since the beginning of our existence. If you don’t have case studies, you can create characters and show how they will benefit from your business idea. It can be tempting to fill presentations with charts and numbers, but they lack emotional impact and are more difficult to remember. But a story can be the one thing that audience members (and the investors) remember about your pitch.
Lavinia: “In my pitch I told a story about two characters, Anna, who was using my product and had positive results, and Jane, who was still struggling with being underemployed. While they were not real characters, I believe it made the audience relate to them and understand the type of impact The Bright Club can have.”
Tip 2: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
Presenting in front of an audience can be daunting enough, but when you are doing it for the future of your business, the stakes are even higher. Which is why it is critical to be prepared, and know exactly what you will be talking about and the order in which you will discuss your points. Inevitably, you will be nervous, but rehearsing can give you a lot of confidence. If you have a chance, ask a friend or family member to watch your pitch. They can offer you amazing feedback that will make your presentation a success.
Lavinia: “I rehearsed my pitch for about two hours prior, which can seem like a long time, but it was really necessary. Without rehearsing my pitch, I knew I risked looking unprepared. Rehearsing also helped me focus on the most important parts of my pitch, as it was initially three times longer than it should have been.”
Tip 3: Don’t underestimate the power of visuals
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes; would you be excited to watch a presentation with 500 words per slide and no images? Visuals are nine times easier to remember compared to words, so don’t be afraid to use them if they fit your presentation content. Websites such as Pexels offer free high-quality images that you can use to deliver the most powerful message possible.
Also, try using headlines, not paragraphs. Your presentation should complement your speech, not the other way around. This means that people won’t need to read from your slides, which they will feel like they could have done in their own time.
Lavinia: “I honestly believe the main thing that differentiated my pitch from peers was my PowerPoint deck. Visuals have an amazing impact on the audience, and when people go for a recognisable PowerPoint template, it shows lack of effort. Make sure you brand your slides according to your business colours, add your logo and always use high quality images.”
Tip 4: Anticipate questions and prepare appropriate answers
Question time can sometimes be more difficult than delivering the pitch itself. It is extremely important to anticipate the questions investors might ask and prepare answers that will prove your expertise in the field and your capabilities. Make sure you know the ins and outs of your financial model, everything about your competitors, and demonstrate that you have thought about all the potential problems that might arise and how you can overcome them.
However, don’t be scared to admit you don’t know something. You can tell the investors that you will do more research or consult your business partners and get back to them as soon as possible. And if that happens, get back to them the same day so that potential investors don’t lose faith in your idea.
Tip 5: Show your passion for your business
Remember that people often invest in people, so share your previous achievements and experience with the investors. And make sure to bring your smile and enthusiasm along with you. When you are passionate, you send a message to others that you will do everything in your power to make your business a success. Show your excitement for the future of your product or service, and how your idea will help your customers and bring profits for those who invest.
Many people have brilliant ideas. But not everyone can transform those ideas into reality. Showing your passion for your business idea can help you stand out from the crowd.
Jointly written by Justyna Turner, Enterprise Champion at the University of Salford and Lavinia Alexoiu, Final Year Salford Business School Student.
Innovating Future Business is an enterprise competition encouraging innovative, forward-thinking business ideas, open to students across the University Alliance group. Register online to watch students pitch their business ideas to a panel investors on Wednesday 10 May 2017 at the University of Salford’s MediaCityUK campus.
Do you have your own top tips for pitching your business idea? Let us know using #UAfuturebiz @UniAlliance