Wondering how to win a pitch competition?
An effective pitch can make all of the difference between getting your startup business the funding, resources, and backing it needs to become a reality versus it falling flat and having to start over from scratch.
There are many types of competitions and pitching opportunities for entrepreneurs. These can run from school business plan competitions to government grants to demo days at startup accelerators and those hosted by angel groups, TV shows like Shark Tank, as well as individual investor meetings you’ve managed to line up.
So, what’s the secret sauce to winning pitch competitions and getting the money your startup needs?
Do Your Research
When you are looking into how to win a pitch competition keep in mind that success is all about preparation. It applies just as much to pitching as your business idea. Don’t skimp on this. Failing to prepare is just preparing to fail.
Beyond your own market and business, you need to be researching your competition and the audience you are pitching too.
Who are you up against? It may just be a matter of performing better than a couple of peers and on a couple of key points. Who else is competing? What are they strong at? Where are they weak? How can you outshine them, and be the best option?
Know your prospective investors. What are they looking to fund? Who have they funded before? Why did they do it, or not? What were their top objections to other pitches? What recent trends of changes might you be able to capitalize on now?
Build The Relationship In Advance
This is one of the key things about how to win a pitch competition. How can you connect with and get in front of decision-makers and those you’ll be pitching in advance?
As with any sale or business deal, nailing the know you, like you, trust you trifecta can make all the difference.
Start the conversation early if you can. Build some familiarity. Strategize something you can prove you’ve achieved or delivered on between your first contact and the pitch or competition decision.
Your pitch deck design is important. If you aren’t pitching live, then your pitch deck has to do all the talking for you. Even if you are pitching live, some will pay a lot more attention to the screen than you.
Don’t get sidetracked and fall behind trying to reinvent the wheel. Do, find a proven and successful template, and then make it yours.
Tailor it to your audience. You’ve done your research. You know who they are and what their preferences are. You could make it feel like this opportunity was meant just for them.
When it comes down to fundraising keep in mind that it is all about storytelling. For a winning deck, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Keep It Simple
The top mistake made by entrepreneurs when pitching for fundraising and in competitions like this is that they make it too complicated. This is critical when it comes down to how to win a pitch competition.
Being too technical and detailed is not an asset when it comes to sales and pitching. There is a time and place for that, and you need attention to detail in the background of your business. You might even need it in the back of your mind to answer questions by, especially industry-savvy investors. This just typically isn’t the arena for that. It can do you way more harm than good.
From explaining your problem to the solution and your business and economic model, keep it super simple. Hone in on one key factor.
If you want to learn further about the common mistakes when fundraising you may find very interesting the video below where I cover it in detail.
Keep Your Pitch Short
Many founders really struggle with this when wondering how to win a pitch competition. They believe that if only the audience knew all the details they would get it. That’s not how it works. This is a sales presentation.
Things rarely go smoothly and according to plan live either. If you pack your time too tight, one slight glitch will really throw you off and can completely destroy the opportunity.
You can prevent this by building a lot of cushions. If you’ve got 60 minutes to present, keep your presentation to just 20 minutes. This gives you an extra 20 minutes upfront to handle any technical issues without stealing your most important messaging. Then you have an extra 20 minutes in the end for actual conversation and Q&A time. This can be critical for overcoming objections and getting to a win or term sheet.
Slides and a professional script is a good start as part of how to win a pitch competition. However, it really needs to come across smoothly and naturally to win.
Your tech may not always cooperate. You don’t want to be juggling or dropping flashcards in the middle of your presentation.
Practice however many times you need to for it to be natural and to not need prompts and slides. The more you can practice with others and in the format, you’ll be pitching in, the better you’ll do. Practicing in the mirror alone can be totally different from stepping on stage in front of dozens of people or being on camera.
Get Your Mindset Right
A great deal of the competition is in your mind. It’s all about having the right mindset.
This may be really important to you. It may feel like make or break right now, but being desperate and nervous because of that perception isn’t going to help you at all.
Try going in with the mindset of just wanting a learning experience and to better your project and pitch. Then you can’t lose.
Know that this isn’t the end, no matter what the outcome seems to be. Just do your best and get all the feedback you can.
You may not get an answer on the spot. It may not be the right time. You may not be the number one winner. That doesn’t mean great results and funding won’t come out of it.
Be memorable so that they can follow up and find you afterward. Have a simple URL and name. Get their contact information so that you can follow up and provide ongoing investor updates and get introductions.
Hopefully, this post provided some guidance when you are looking into how to win a pitch competition.