Simple Stories Make Great Pitches


ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank, is one of my very favorites on TV. It attracts entrepreneurs of all ages, levels of experience, and backgrounds to come pitch their business idea for angel investment by one or more of the sharks. One of the young ‘treps who pitched this past year is Joseph Draschil, co-founder of  Draschil is currently participating in Start-Up Chile (written about here a few months ago) while enrolled in an MBA entrepreneurship program at Babson College. 

His first major assignment in a Babson course was to create an opportunity storyboard for a business idea, limited to a single PowerPoint slide. The storyboard became a rocket pitch: a three minute, three slide, live pitch in front of his professor and classmates in the entrepreneurship class. Draschil was then encouraged to enter the Babson Rocket Pitch event, to pitch his idea in front of investors, professors, members of the community and the student body.

The following week, his team entered the Big Idea Competition, for which they were required us to upload a three-minute pitch video to YouTube, secure the most “likes” and move to the finalist round to pitch on stage for three judges. Within one week of being named one of two winning teams, Draschil received an e-mail from the director of the entrepreneurship center at Babson. Two of the “sharks” were to visit the school and hear the pitch. Here’s the young entrepreneur’s perspective on the experience:

Although I was terrified of failing in front of entrepreneur celebrities and all of Babson, I committed to participate and the pitch went great. My partner and I stumbled a couple of times during the Q&A session, but that’s okay. You make mistakes, learn from them, and improve — that’s the essence of the startup journey. After the event, Mark Cuban mentioned to us that he believed if we could get the marketing down, we would kill it.

While I continue to work on the business, I have learned a few key lessons about creating a dynamic pitch:

  1. Be visual. Please, no slides full of bullet points. Use simple and clean images that clarify and complement what you’re saying — not complicate it. When slides are cluttered and busy, the audience will be focused on deciphering them instead of focusing on you. Don’t forget that for most investors, the entrepreneur is more important than the product or idea being pitched.
  2. Tell a story. Storytelling lies at the heart of who we are as humans. Remember, you are not a court lawyer trying to amass evidence for the jury as to why your idea is destined to make millions. If your pitch is just a crowd of facts, figures and pie charts, you may lose your audience.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. Get in front of others and pitch — a lot. Don’t worry about your pitch being bad the first few times you do it. It most definitely will be. As you practice, though, you will learn which parts your audience is responding to and which parts need to be adjusted. Over time, your confidence and delivery will improve.

These 3 lessons are important for any entrepreneur. Pay attention to Draschil’s advice to be simple & clear in your slides. Way too much information in the presentations of many. The difference between an engaged audience and a bored one is your ability to weave a compelling story. Finally, the admonition to practice is so practical, fundamental, and predictive of one’s likelihood of success.

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