The Keys to a Great Pitch

Posted by Jaime Reynolds on Fri, Apr 29, 2011

Last week, MITX and TCN held a workshop preparing Innovation Awards applicants for the final round of judging, where entrants still in the running are invited to present to judges. The learnings shared during this event are valuable for all types of presentations but was specifically geared towards the judging process so read on for the valuable insight our speakers shared.

Whether you’re presenting to judges evaluating your product for an awards or start-up competition, to potential investors considering an investment in your company, or to the general public learning about your awesome innovation, a great pitch is the key to your audience’s hearts.

According to Matt Witheiler, Principal at Flybridge Capital Partners and Member of the Innovation Awards Advisory Group, there are 4 simple keys to a great pitch.

  1. Sell the Vision – Show your passion and get your audience excited about your story immediately.
  2. Hone in on Innovation – Spend the bulk of your presentation talking about how your product is innovative (this point is very specific to the Innovation Awards; after all, the competition is looking for the most innovative products changing the way we market, live and play). According to Matt, innovation comes in many shapes and sizes – innovation can be ideas that tackle problems in a way that changes lives, or technology that is completely different than everything else.   The point here?  Be clear about what makes your product innovative.
  3. Show Data - No matter what stage your product is in, demonstrating traction goes a long way. Talk about customer wins, use cases, beta test results, industry research – anything that shows you have done the necessary research and know what you’re talking about.
  4. Address the Challenges – Every business faces challenges, so be up front about yours, but also present your challenges in a way that demonstrates you have a plan to address them.

Kent Bennett, VP at Bessemer Venture Partners, also shared the following thoughts on great pitches:

  1. Your audience has the attention span of a puppy – Get their attention immediately and tell an engaging story from beginning to end. Use data that demonstrates real progress and traction (so they know the story isn’t fiction), and most importantly demonstrate your love and enthusiasm for the project.
  2. Your audience is allergic to BS, but (unfairly) also to detail – Explain your innovation in enough detail to demonstrate that you’re credible, but not so much that they need a thesaurus.
  3. Your audience will include some cynics – Address their doubts before they do so that they don’t get to have a “gotcha” moment (i.e. point number 4 above).

The final piece of advice was “practice makes perfect,” so at the end of the session, audience members put their skills to the test and practiced their pitch in front our coaches: Kent, Ben Littauer, Member at Launchpad and Boston Harbor Angels and Roger Walton, General Partner at Castile Ventures.

For those of you who were not able to join us – and those who were – we hope you take the time to practice your pitch, using the above guidelines. A great pitch will serve you well, not only in the Awards competition, but in many aspects of your work life. Best of luck!

Special thanks to TCN (our partner for the event), DIGITAS (a Platinum Sponsor of the Innovation Awards and the evening’s host) and our panel of coaches:  Matt Witheiler, Kent Bennett, Ben Littauer and Roger Walton.