Insights16 August 20228 min

The 5 golden rules to perfect your startup pitch

START IT CONNECTX 05 2022 102 minSTART IT CONNECTX 05 2022 102 minSTART IT CONNECTX 05 2022 102 minSTART IT CONNECTX 05 2022 102 min
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Once you’ve discovered your startup’s reason for being and founded a new company, it’s time to get others on board. Whether you’re trying to convince investors, put the word out to customers, or recruit your dream team, your pitch is everything. Need some help getting started, or want some tips to perfect your pitch? We’ve got you. Check out these top tips you can use to wow us at our new pitch wave in September!

#1 Know your audience & do your homework

Let’s start with the basics: who are you pitching to? The most important thing of course is to know your audience. Your pitch to investors isn’t the same as the one to clients or potential employees. Time to get your hands dirty and do some digging. Research the people you’re speaking to and figure out who they are, what they do, what their lives are like. How much knowledge do they already have on the subjects you’ll be covering? Think about how you can benefit them and why they should listen to you.

In other words, it’s time to do some homework. You can start with LinkedIn, where you can discover some common ground with the individuals you’re pitching to. Maybe you both attended the University of Ghent? Or you’ve worked on the same project? Perfect: now you know how to adapt your pitch. Also consider any topics you should definitely avoid in your pitch. If you know that an audience member has had a bad experience with something, leave that touchy subject aside. To sum it up, doing your research helps you avoid uncomfortable situations and lets you respond perfectly to what’s going on with your pitch audience.

We’ve got a great example of a well-researched pitch from our startups Fibricheck and Settlemint, who got to pitch to investors at the Women in Tech Conference held in Silicon Valley. Founders Bieke Van Gorp and Els Meyvaert got to practice their pitch beforehand to experts from the US Market Access Center, who helped them tighten their game. Els realised that she needed to include an overview of market size in pitches to help investors figure out her scaling potential. Bieke was told that this scene liked to keep it short and snappy, so she cut out some blah blah. Getting some good feedback on what their audience was looking for made them confident that they had a well-tailored pitch.

#2 Apply the 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint

Five years ago we spoke with Canva evangelist and investor Guy Kawasaki at South by Southwest. He passed on some powerful lessons on how to give a good pitch. One of the ones that really stuck with us had to do with length. Kawasaki swears by the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s pretty simple really: a pitch should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points. This rule applies to any type of presentation that involves convincing others, whether it’s to potential investors, clients, or partners.

So how did Kawasaki choose these numbers? This is how he explains it:

  • 10 is the optimal number of slides in a Powerpoint presentation because as he says, “a normal human being cannot comprehend more than 10 concepts in a meeting.” So keep it digestible and stick to 10.

  • 20 minutes is how long you should be giving the presentation. You may have a bigger time slot, but between waiting for people to show up and setup, you should be talking for 20. If there’s any time left, use it for discussion.

  • 30 points is the minimum size your font should be. Using a smaller font means you are jamming too much text into your slide. Your entire presentation should not be on the slides for your audience to read instead of listening to your spiel. Use the text to outline your main points while the audience’s focus remains on what you are saying.

#3 Tell your story using the PRO model

Before you launch into all the benefits of your product or service, give the audience an idea of who you are as well. What motivated you to start a new company from scratch? Did you ditch your dead-end job, experience a moving personal encounter, or have an aha-moment about how to fix a problem? Letting the audience in on what made you decide to found a startup draws them in and gives context to everything that comes after.

That doesn’t mean dragging your listeners through an endless anecdote. Bart Muskala, experienced pitcher and founder of our startup Accurat, goes by the proven PRO model by Body Talk, the global leaders in communication psychology courses. According to the PRO model, you should:

  • Start by briefly describing the problem that your product or service helps to solve. Walk your audience through this pain point, using a real-life customer story to make it come to life. This is an essential part of explaining your company’s reason for being.

  • Then make a “big fat promise” to grab the audience’s attention. State your company’s value proposition with a bold statement on what you’re going to do about the problem. Then you can get into how you’re going to do it, and how you’ll do it better than others.

  • Wrap up by explaining how you are going to reach your goals, backing it up with evidence before finishing with a simple proposal or call-to-action.

#4 Highlight your people power

Ask any investor what the deciding factor is for him or her to invest in a company, and you’ll probably hear it’s the founding team. It really is all about people. It’s what sets your startup apart from everybody else trying to do something similar.

Before you build up a track record, your credibility is based largely on your team members. So highlight everything that makes your dream team right for this business: your combined experience, how you complement each other, and everyone’s unique skill set. Show what everyone brings to the table and how it will help position you in the market and help fuel your growth. That counts for the founding team as well as your employees. When there are multiple founders, you often find that they have different expertise to contribute: for example, one may be focused on the technical aspect while the other is a pro at sales and business development.

#5 Prepare to go digital

So what do you have to keep in mind when preparing a digital pitch? First of all, a visually appealing presentation is more important than ever. With an offline presentation, most of the attention goes to the presenter while the slides support their story. With online presentation the situation is the opposite: the main focus is on the slides, so it’s very important that they are pleasing to the eye.

Just as with a regular presentation, it’s essential to be well-prepared. There are some things you have to pay extra attention to. To start with, make sure you have a stable internet connection and test the audio and video setups to prevent technical mishaps. Seems straightforward enough, but this can actually be very tricky in practice. Save yourself some stress by double-checking everything!

Also make sure there is enough interaction, so that you can adjust your presentation to the audience’s interests if needed. Online meetings make it a little harder to read your audience and play off each other. That’s why it’s good to check in with your audience once in a while to make sure there aren’t any technical difficulties and check whether that important decision-maker is still online.

Ready to practice your pitch in front of the mirror? Practice makes perfect, and who knows: maybe we’ll see you at our next pitch wave! Are you, or do you know, someone who just can’t wait to pitch his or her idea? Time to (get him or her to) apply for the next Start it @KBC pitch wave right here!