How To Prepare For A Startup Pitching Competition

The day has come. It started as an average day in the office, but as you opened your email something has changed. You read it several times and it hits you – your team is invited to join a pitching competition. It does not matter whether the competition, you can feel the excitement in the air.

The next couple of days are spent on learning everything about the competition, preparing the slides, choosing the right member. How is going to present on stage? The CEO or the biggest charisma in the team? Pitching is a stage act, is a performance where you need to make your audience fall in love with your product. You make a tough decision. You go through the best startup pitches on Youtube trying to spot the do’s and the don’ts of public speaking. You practice in front of the mirror or record yourself on camera to evaluate your own performance with the advertence of a doctor. The tension is rising.  

So today is the day. Your palms are sweaty. Your pitch deck is lean and has been reviewed several times the night before. You try to set yourself up for no expectations mode but secretly picture yourself with a bottle of champagne celebrating the victory.

We spoke with Sara Rouvinen, Communication and Voice Coach, M.A in Speech Communication and Voice Research and entrepreneur at Sanabox, to talk about the small details that would make your pitch flawless.

Sara Rouvinen, Sanabox

Tell a story that people will love.

“Storytelling is everything”, Sara starts our conversation, “a good speaker is the one who can make the audience fall in love with the story and a storyteller.” Indeed, stories that are well thought and well-presented are the ones that stand out. A good pitch is not about selling a product, not even about the product itself. It is all about a good story behind it. Many startups have a great the story but very often they fail to deliver it. “Think about how you can introduce the story in a way that it sparks the pitch and makes the audience relate to you emotionally. But do not go to essays either. Find a balanced way to tell the story that will be concise, honest and personal. Be authentic.”

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in his Rhetoric pointed out 3 modes of persuasion used to convince audiences. These are, ethos or the ethical appeal, the ability to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character, pathos, or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions, and logos, or the appeal to logic, means to convince an audience by use of logic or reason. Startups tend to rely a lot on logos – explain the product in great details, go through technical solutions, bring in numbers. They key to a good pitch is to find the balance between all three, Sara says.

Building a connection with your audience is crucial.

“Not many realize but their performance starts on the moment they step on stage. The way you walk in, the way you move and the way your position yourself on the stage create the first impression, perhaps the most important part for which you will be remembered”, says Sara. Often pitching startups are invited to a rehearsal, where they get a chance to get familiar with the stage, the screens and audience positioning. “Use the stage space in a way that makes you most comfortable. Don’t hide behind your slides. Come out from the shadows and step into the light.”

Be mindful of your look. Certainly, women would relate to this one. Pitching competition is not a catwalk, nor it is a cocktail party. Wear an outfit that represents you most. It’s ok to dress to impress as long as you are comfortable with what you are wearing. Many startup pitchers like to wear their branded apparel – this removes the hassle of choosing the right outfit.

Don’t only talk, Use your Body Language too

“Or whichever language you pitch in, keep in mind that nonverbal communication constitutes up to 90% of meaning in your performance. While you are on stage in the spotlight, your body language and your voice become your most powerful allies. Not your slides, but your hands, your moves, and your voice.” We are all humans so it is ok to be nervous before entering the stage. The point is not to let that nervousness to be on your way. Sara gives some practical tips on how to make sure you look and sound confident even if you are horrified inside.

Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. Warm up your body and voice. The best way to warm up your vocal folds is to do sounds such as hmmm and aaahhh, feeling how your body relaxes and your throat softens. Jump few times up and down or take few running steps. This is a great way to activate and warm up your body, mind, and voice.

When coming on stage, smile and greet the audience by the simply taking an eye-contact and saying hello. As you pitch, try to pronounce every word with meaning. Avoid pouring information instead be interesting and excited about your audience. Be clear and concise. Be passionate and excited what you are talking about! You don’t want your audience to fall asleep. Avoiding monotony will change the intonation and rhythm of your speech in a big way.

Free your hands and don’t hold on to any objects in your hands if they are not part of the show. Make sure that if you have some object on the stage you are comfortable with it and it has a clear meaning. Some people, for example, use a pen and roll it in their hands during the presentation. This can be a manner that takes away the audience attention from you and the topic into the pen. You don’t want this to happen, says Sara.

Instead of standing in one corner all the time, use the space. For the time of your pitch, it is all yours. If you want to move, move. If you want to stand, stand but use your body to accompany your words.

“And finally, remember to enjoy the process. When you enjoy, the listeners enjoy too and you can make your pitch memorable” 

Hope this will help you to nail your pitch and bring your presentation skills to the next level. To learn more about Sara Rouvinen and her Sanabox public speaking and vocal services go to www.sanabox.co.

 

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