Pitching events (often called “demo days”) are prevalent these days. There’s possibly even too many of them for active startup regions, which results in fatigue on the part of investors looking for deal flow. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider participating in one of the various forms of pitching events. There are multiple possible benefits, such as the following:
Refining Your 3-5 Minute Story
Before your first formal pitching event you probably had only two modes of responding to interested parties: a 10-30 sec elevator pitch (read my related article titled “Your Elevator Pitch Only Needs to Accomplish One Thing“) and the 30-45 minute interrogation by an interested investor (mostly Q&A format). Preparing for a pitching event forces you to describe the most important elements of your story and business plan in 3-5 minutes. And you get to do it without interruption, which also means you are forced to connect your key message points in a logical sequence.
A Collection of Concise Responses
You will rehearse your pitch so many times that it will forever be committed to memory. That’s great because during future meetings with interested investors, when they ask you how big your market is, your mental reaction will be “that’s slide 3”. When they ask how you plan to make money, your mental reaction will be “that’s slide 7”. The ideal responses are already on the tip of your tongue.
An Updated Briefing Deck
Who has time to work on their briefing deck when there’s real work to be done? The truth is that having a fresh and perfect briefing deck is always valuable, no matter how big your company gets. Preparing for a pitching event forces you to whip it into current shape. And since it’s only a deck for a 3-5 minute pitch, you can always add another dozen slides to it for a more comprehensive version of your current business plan, but with the pitch deck slides serving as the key foundation.
For helpful hints on the typical flow of topics for your pitch deck, see my related article titled “Typical Pitch Deck Flow (Topic Order)“.
During the networking event that immediately follows the pitches, you’ll either have nobody approach you, a few approach you, or you’ll get mobbed. The reaction is very telling. If you don’t get approached, you must figure out why. Proactively introduce yourself to some investors during this activity and ask them what they thought of your pitch. Then get specific. Is it clear what you do and what problem you solve? Is your opportunity compelling? What concerns would investors possibly have about funding your startup?
For my secrets of optimizing your results at networking events, I strongly recommend reading my article titled “Best Practices for Networking at an Event“.
If you don’t already have a lot of experience presenting to an audience, it’s time to get it. The more practice, the better you’ll get and the less nervous you’ll be.
The Start of a Business Plan
The pitch deck you put together has the core elements that the 30-50 page written business plans of yesteryear had. You don’t need to waste your time creating such a huge document but you do need to think through the important elements of your business and strategy. Expanding on your pitch deck to make it more comprehensive gives you something that can be used as your business plan. For more guidance on this, see my related article titled ‘Don’t Waste Time on Your Business Plan’ Doesn’t Mean Don’t Plan“.
Bringing It All Together (example)
Here’s a good example of what it looks like when everything comes together nicely. The video below is of Loop & Tie founder Sara Rodell, as she gives an award-winning pitch at the 2017 Salesforce Dreampitch event. Notice her focus on the problem, the value her solution delivers, and a couple of real-life customer stories. Also notice how her use of imagery and limited text on the slides causes you to listen to her. Notice how her smile, body movement and general demeanor conveys confidence.
Hopefully you’ve identified at least a couple of reasons to participate in a pitching event during the early stages of your startup’s evolution. If you actually decide to participate in one, I strongly recommend also reading my related article titled “Preparing for a Pitching Event“.