Few things can be more grueling for an entrepreneur than a pitch competition. But, if you win, your business could get quite the payoff. Cowtown Angels member Luke Wittenbraker and TCU’s William M. Dickey Entrepreneur in Residence, Michael Sherrod, have heard many a pitch in their entrepreneurial lifetimes. Here, they share a few tips on how to get through a pitch competition — and make it out a winner.
The business plan
LW: “I want to see realistic financials projections that make sense based on the plan’s pricing and go-to marketing strategy. I’ve seen plenty of plans projecting incredible sales growth over a three- to four-year initial period, but a lot of the time, they are missing how they are going to navigate to those goals. Projections can be difficult, especially for a startup or a new business plan, because you don’t know what you don’t know. In my personal view, I find conservative estimates to be more believable in the current business environment. An even more appropriate element that will always stand out to me is a summary of a base case and a best-case model. Even if you don’t have the ability to show me your entire financial model, show me your key market variables of X and Y, so that I can know how you got to Z. Prove to me you can make money when not everything goes your way (because it won’t), and you have my undue attention.”
MS: “The presenters are the most important part of the presentation. They must present themselves as smart and grounded individuals with good posture, thoughtful hand gestures, appropriate pauses, the energy and tone of your voice, and strong eye contact.”
LW: “Get. To. The. Point. If a minute has gone by, and I don’t know what your product or service is, you’ve lost my attention. Tell me what your business sells. I want to know. That’s why I’m here.”
MS: “A product really stands out when its value component is part and parcel of the business — in short, there is no business without the value component of the business model.”
LW: “Wow me. Show me something I’ve never seen before or something used in a way that I’ve never seen before. Oh, also make it so someone else can’t easily copy it. Oh, also prove to me that people want to buy it. Sound hard? That’s because it is.”
So, what makes a pitch a winning one?
LW: “Be yourself. This is your business idea, and you are doing it because you care about it … A winning pitch should make me itch. As in, I want you to be done pitching, because I’m itching to ask you questions, because I’m excited about learning more about the opportunity.”
MS: “Practice, practice, practice and practice some more. Then do it again. And again. And again. Get it done within the allotted time … Very few people practice their pitches to perfection, and those that do, win.”
Words From a Winner
Tips from Elyse Dickerson, whose company, Eosera Inc., won $50,000 from the 2015 North Texas Business Pitch Contest and $5,000 from the 2017 Mary Kay Pink Tank pitch competition.
When putting together a business plan, what elements do you typically zero in on the most? Market opportunity and how your company is filling the gap in the market are the most important parts to focus on. Next, how your company is different from everything else out there — how is your team prepared to execute against the idea?
What is it about your presentations that you think gets the judges’ attention? Telling a short and compelling story is the most important job for a presenter in a pitch competition. The audience needs to be able to retell your story after hearing it one time.
Finally, what do you think makes a pitch a winning one? Extensive preparation makes the difference between a winning pitch and not. This includes spending a lot of time developing the visual slides that support the story and practicing the presentation over and over until it becomes second nature.
Eosera is going to market. Click here to see what’s next for Eosera and other Fort Worth startups.