10 Tips to Enhance your Pitch

10 Tips to Enhance your Pitch

Over the years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time sitting in on pitches by entrepreneurs – more mediocre than good – so much so that bad pitches have firmly entrenched itself as the leading health risk in the course of my work.  It’s okay if the contents of the pitch were less than ideal, since there’ll always be time for Q&A and clarifications.  What I’m bugged by are poorly-executed pitches that makes me think my time could have been better spent elsewhere.  Having said that, I believe the ability to deliver a perfect pitch is a skill that can be learned and honed; despair not!

This isn’t a post about the contents of your pitch, or how to give a good elevator pitch – there’s many guides available such as those by KillerBlog and Techcrunch.  This is a post on how to enhance your pitch by giving potential investors a better overall experience.

I’ve done my best to consolidate my experiences into 10 tips that entrepreneurs can hopefully use to sharpen their game.  I’d also like to add the usual caveats, that these are my personal views and are not in any way representative of those of my employer’s ;-).

  1. Do your homework – this cardinal rule applies to all scheduled meetings.  You’re on shaky grounds if you walk into a meeting without first having done your homework and research on the people you’re meeting and the firm’s background.  I always like to ask the people I’m meeting how much they know about me as a proxy to the amount of research they’ve done.  Easy-to-grab brownie points you definitely shouldn’t miss.

  2. Shake firmly – never underestimate the value of a firm handshake, especially when it’s a guy’s hand that you’re shaking.  I’m most turned off by limp grips.  Just try not to crush the hands of petite ladies and leave the wrong impressions.

    A firm hand shake speaks volumes

  3. Exchange name cards properly – I’ve seen entrepreneurs in the Valley slide or *gasp* toss their name cards across the table, while we Asians like to hand our name cards with both hands; know which culture you’re operating in, and go with the flow.  My personal preference is to stick to the latter.  Be safe, not sorry.

  4. Make small talk – it’s good to try and build a deeper connection with your potential investors in the privacy of a room, especially before the rest of his/her team shows up – divide and conquer.  Awkward moments of silence should be avoided as far as possible.  Still, this point is highly personality-driven – if this ain’t your cup of tea, it’s alright to pass.

  5. Time check! – it’s a good habit to ask your audience how much more time they have halfway through the presentation.  You know you’ve either met potential investors who are really nice, or managed to make them take sufficient notice to grant their time to you carte blanche.  If a request comes through to end the meeting by a certain time, make sure you graciously stick to it – no one likes meetings to go past their scheduled times, much less long meetings that seem to go on and on.

  6. Pace yourself – I’ve seen some entrepreneurs rush through their pitch and slides, or take too long to go through the unnecessary parts, only to realize that they’ve got too much or too little time left.  Remember, you’re in a marathon and not a 100-m sprint.  I’m also irked by entrepreneurs who insist on sticking to their script and look annoyed when I interject mid-stride with some questions.  Remember, your customer is always right!

  7. Maintain eye contact – I have to admit, this is a personal peeve.  I like to look straight into the presenting entrepreneur’s eyes, and appreciate those who have the guts to gaze back.  I perceive shifty eyes and averted gazes as clear signs of a lack of confidence and start asking a lot more questions to try and uncover other red flags.

  8. Avoid sprinkling your pitch with crap buzzwords – entrepreneurs should never attempt to give potential investors a lecture in the latest buzzwords.  Worse, I once had a pitch where I was educated on the virtues of a ‘blue ocean’ strategy.  Spare us the crap, and cut straight to the chase thank you.

    Web 2.0 buzzwords galore

  9. Don’t be pushy – one sure way of killing your chances with any investor.  Eager beavers can be certain they won’t be scoring that second date.  If you really have that much angst to vent, push a push-pop instead.

  10. Apply plenty of common sense – when applying tips 1 through 9 fail to stem the tide and prevent your pitch from getting burnt, always remember to fall back on good ‘ol common sense.  Make sure you bring loads of it going into the meeting, and if you ain’t got any, pick some of it on your way to your next investor pitch from my alma mater Stanford or philosophers of yore.

    Ssshh, my common sense is tingling!

About James Chan

James Chan is an entrepreneur, investor, geek, photographer and husband/father based out of Singapore. Apart from frequent travels to Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia for work, James can also be found online via his trusty 15" Retina MacBook Pro or iPhone 6+.