Yesterday I attended a nice pitch-fest event hosted by Sramana Mitra, who is keen to see more entrepreneurs from Bengal make it to the $1 million per year club.
While some of the presenters had some nice ideas, the presentation left a lot to be desired. This was quite evident from the audience reaction. You need to have a very sharp presentation if you want to pitch your idea to the investors because once they lose interest; you lose them (almost) forever.
- Start with a bang. Have a catchy slogan that precisely describes what you are talking about. We are not interested in guessing or waiting till your 7th slide to figure this out. Here is a template:
“I am here to pitch <product p> that solves <problem y> for <customer class c> by <doing a, b and c>”. Or you can say “<problem y> is a big problem for <customer class c> and our <product p> solves it by <doing a, b and c>”.
- Don’t use all the colours on the rainbow. Use 2-3 colours at best. We are not here to appreciate your artistic skills; we want to know the facts of your case.
- Use contrasting colours in background and foreground. Dark letters on light background or light colours on dark background. One presenter had used white on light green and we could read nothing.
- Don’t put too much text on slides and read that out. We are here to hear you and not to read your slides. Just use the key point on the slide and talk about it. Or put your pitch on the slides and talk less (not a preferred approach).
- We will grill you like crazy. If you are not prepared for that, try your luck elsewhere. We disbelieve everything you say and will question you hard. Did someone say “be thick-skinned”?
- Your most conservative projection is higher than our most optimistic estimates? Can you defend your position?
- Be prepared to jump from slide 3 to 8 to 2 to 12. You cannot insist on us seeing the slides in order (this does not always happen but you should be prepared).
- You might have prepared for a 15 minutes presentation and be asked to present in 3 minutes. Be ready with an executive summary that will convey the key points in the short time.
- Practice your pitch in front of your co-founders, team members, family or friends. Ask them to be harsh to you and question you about everything. It will boost your confidence for the real presentation.
- Smart presenters bring a silent partner along who takes vigorous notes about the questions, and missing facts.
- Be prepared to fail. We may not accept your idea or proposal but you will leave the hall as a winner. After all, you have learnt so much. You have discovered why your arguments today did not win the approval and what needs to be worked upon for you to make the next pitch much more awesome.
I know I said 10 tips but that was a bonus tip. You deserve more my friend. Please share your opinion by posting a comment below.
I recently attended IT Niketan, a new initiative by Nasscom to bring together and empower the designers, developers and the testers of the IT industry. The energy of the attendees was infectious and most of the people stayed till the end to consume the nuggets shared by the speakers. The speakers also had a wide range of profiles, from veterans who has clocked 35 years to recent pass-outs.
While I definitely enjoyed the discussions on designing and development, I was most thrilled to see ‘testing’ get the attention and importance it deserves. Whether you have designed a website or coded a fabulous new application, the testers ensure that there are no crippling bugs and errors that will bring down the whole system and cause you immense loss of reputation and business.
This eco-system has to be carefully nurtured so that the young and energetic people can contribute meaningfully to their companies and enhance their personal careers in the process. I will be happy to help them in any way I can.
You might know that I was one of the speakers at the recently concluded Nasscom Emergeout Conclave at Kolkata. My presentation was based around “Increase Your Sales With Internet Marketing“.
I introduced an interesting game that website owners can regularly play to increase the conversion of visitors to prospects and customers. For the benefit of those who could not make it to the conclave and to remind those who attended, here is how the game is played.
An interesting fact before we learn how to play this game – “People buy on emotion and justify with logic.” So if your prospect decides to buy your product or service from your web site, he does so because of some gut feeling after looking at your website. Now if he can successfully justify this with logic (again based on your web site content), he will go ahead and do so. If the information on the site does not help to justify this, he will abort the purchase.
Ok – let’s play…
1. Imagine you are your prospective customer. You have to make a mental picture of who are your typical customers and become one of them.
2. Now open your website in another window of this browser. Watch it load for a few seconds and switch back to this window. I will wait while you do so.
3. Back already? Great! If you want to spend some more time at the site, go ahead, I will be patiently waiting for you here.
4. What kind of emotions are running through your mind? Does that site look professional? Do you feel that this is a useful product for you? Can it provide you some benefits if you buy that? Is your life going to become easier? Improved productivity? Does the company look like one you can safely buy from?
5. Now let us assume, you feel like buying this product. However you will have to convince your accountant or purchase department or boss or wife – whoever – that it is useful to buy this. How will you do so? Go back to the site and collect information that will help you justify your purchasing decision.
Do they layout the benefits clearly? Can you see testimonials from other satisfied users? Any certifications? Is the cost justifiable? Guarantee? Refund policies? List out everything that you will use to convince your approval authority for allowing you to purchase it.
6. Let’s change the track now. We will assume that you do not get the emotional high that tells that you really need to buy this. Why? What went wrong? Go back to the site and find out what is missing.
Have they not explained the benefits clearly? Are they offering facts that are not verifiable? Something looks shady? No testimonials? Doubtful testimonials (like one from John, USA)? Price too high? Contact information missing or hidden somewhere deep? No photos? No case studies? It is just a me-too product with no clear differentiator from other products?
List out all the objections that drag you away from making the purchase NOW.
7. Ok – let’s stop pretending you are a prospect and check your website again.
You know what to do next. You will have to take up these issues one by one and update your website so that the good things are highlighted properly and the negative points are taken care of.
Generally it takes one week to play a round of this game. Next week you can again don the hat of Mr. Prospect and play one more round.
As you can predict, it becomes easier to make the first list and more difficult to make the second list as you progress. However you have already tasted success – your conversion rate is improving and more people are buying rather than just looking.
Keep playing and keep writing to me (by commenting below) how much you are enjoying this fun exercise. You have my best wishes!
Be a winner!
- Your need to hire an A-team to get on to a good start.
- You cannot do everything yourself; get people who are smart, will add value and may even be knowing more than you.
- Attitude with raw talent can outperform experience.
- Try to encourage a ‘no-sir’ culture. Encourage people who dare to say no-sir to your hypothesis based on their domain knowledge and will not meekly accept anything you say.
- Your consultants, partners and co-founders should always be debating and challenging you. This churning brings out the best ideas to the top.
- The right people can help you scale up much faster and higher.
- Maintaining the values of your organisation is an important challenge when scaling up. Trying to motivate 800 people is much harder than motivating 80-100 people. It is an entirely different HR challenge.
- In your organisation, while most of the people look at maintaining the momentum and doing routine things, there must be at least people who are willing to push the envelope.
- Experience has much lesser importance in the IT / Internet business. We need high IQ, raw talent and a burning desire to achieve results.
- Hire people for attitude and not experience.
I hope you enjoyed reading these takeaways. Please post a comment here if you have a rejoinder. I am sure there are other great notes that you have taken and I have missed. You are also welcome to post those. Thanks!