How not to pitch part II


We had our second night of pitch scrubbing and the presenters all did a great job of improving their pitches, but there were a few items I can add to my how-not-to list:


Use a fifty dollar word when a dollar word will do

Polysyllabic and abstruse vocabulary won’t impress your audience and it may flummox some of them. Plain one and two syllable English will do.

Use business or technical jargon

You may think your audience knows what it means, but why take the chance?

Don’t put up an image without a caption

While there might be some exceptions to this rule of thumb, for the most part think of images or graphics like photographs in a newspaper: an image needs a caption. Images without captions can almost be as bad as slides with all text and no image.

Don’t confuse total addressable market with total market

If you are selling a new type of audio loudspeaker your TAM is NOT the total consumer audio electronics market, nor is it even the total audio equipment market. It is the total market for loudspeakers.

Don’t put up static market size figures

Investors want to invest in growing markets, not static markets, nor heaven forbid, shrinking ones.

USE ALL CAPS or Inconsistent upper And Lower case 

Come up with a standard way to title your slides and for the text on the slides and stick to it. All caps are only good for STOP signs and other short words that you need to draw attention to. ALL CAPS ARE VERY HARD TO READ AND MAKE IT SEEM LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING WHEN YOU AREN’T!

Rely on animation, audio and/or video

Ever heard of Murphy? His law is strictly enforced for presentations. If something can go wrong it will. Always have a simple static slide or slides to fall back on if your animation, audio and/or video won’t play.

Use your terminology inconsistently 

If you are selling to CPAs don’t call your market “the finance market” one place and “the accounting market” elsewhere.

Be afraid of a little redundancy

There’s an old saw about giving speeches: first tell em what you’re gonna tell em, then tell em, then tell em what you just told em. If you are giving a 4 or 5 minute pitch you don’t have time for that. But don’t be afraid to repeat your core message more than once. Nor should you be afraid of repeating the gist of what your slide shows – just don’t read the words verbatim from the screen.

Forget to make your last slide a powerful one

You can sometimes cheat a little bit and get a few more seconds to get your message across while waiting for the next presenter to come over to hook their notebook up to the projector. So make sure you don’t just leave a slide with “Thank you and please come to your booth” up when you could be leaving up a money shot of your product complete with tag line.

Don’t be afraid to look a little funky

Sometimes funky can stand out from all the very slick looking presentations, especially if lots of other startups will be pitching before and after you. But if you go for funky, be consistent so it’s clear you meant to be funky, you didn’t just let a wonky slide slip by you. At tonight’s demos I praised the funky design of one of the presenters – which included the colors, fonts and call outs. He just laughed as apparently it was a homemade design. But it cut through the PowerPointedness of many other presentations – and not a bullet point to be found! When I worked with Bill Warner he hated PowerPoint and did his presentations by hand!

Be afraid to toot your own horn

While you might not totally copy Steve Jobs and his “insanely great” style, you should make it very clear you believe your product is absolutely stunning, jaw-dropping, shockingly good! Because if you don’t, why should anyone else?





Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

One thought on “How not to pitch part II”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: