Secrets of the perfect startup pitch

Stewart Bewley, November 2, 2016 4 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Stewart Bewley of Amplify will be giving pitch training to our 20 Northern Stars finalists ahead of the big event on 17th November. You can benefit from his advice right here…

1. Beginning, middle and end

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end (unless it’s a French movie when it ends in the middle, begins at the end and everyone is depressed). Your pitch needs to have a very clear starter; beginning with the story of the problem is always really powerful.

Before you even get to write your pitch, before you even think about the technicalities and all the things that you need to include – what you think investors want to hear, just think about your story. Where did it start, where did you discover the problem, what is the solution and why are you the solution?

2. It’s all about you

Ultimately, you’re the startup and your company is all about you. It’s not made by a robot. They are buying into your skill, into your talent so you must include yourself in your story.

You have emotions and feelings, so describe with emotions and pictures how you felt about the problem, how you came up with the solution, why you believe this is the ONLY solution to this particular problem. If you believe in yourself, people will believe in you.

3. Some stats

55 percent of what you deliver is body language, 38 percent is tonality and 7 percent is content. We focus so hard on the 7 percent  that we forget about the 93 percent, according to research completed by Albert Mehrabian. If we only focus on the 7 percent then we will never tell the story well.

How you stand is crucial – you need to stand tall, you need to plant your feet shoulder-width apart, you need to not stand like a cowboy nor stand crossing your legs like you need the toilet(!).

Own the space. Owning the space is simply not apologising for being there, it’s saying ‘this is my stage right now, this is where I tell my story.’

Once your posture is re-aligned then you need to do some breathing to get to the root of the voice, the full 38 percent of excellent tonality. Very simply, warm up by breathing out through your mouth until you can’t expel any more air, then breathe out a little bit more. THEN, when you’re about to collapse, close your mouth and take a breath in through your nose. You notice that your stomach comes out and fills up with air. That is your powerhouse to speak from.

4. The voice

The next bit is an exercise that all our clients from around the world, from the smallest of startups to Microsoft, have to engage in!

Just like there is no shortcut to becoming an Olympic athlete, or for training for any sport, there is no shortcut to preparing and warming up your voice. It’s just the same with the voice, so once you have stood tall and breathed well, breathe out, take a breath in through your nose and then send a hum sound to the other side of the room.

Make the ‘um’ sound continuous and loud so that the sound is buzzing around your face – try to make your lips and even your nose tingle. Feel your stomach moving as you hum and feel like the sound coming from your stomach.

Once you’ve hummed a couple of times, it’s time to hum and open your mouth, and turn the hum into words… Mmmmmmy name is… We say our names every day – let’s get communication 100 percent sorted on that first sentence, those first four words. If you can say your name loudly, say it with a smile, stand tall and feel your stomach, you are onto a winner.

5. Tools to put this into practice

So now you’ve got the techniques, how do you put it into practice? Here are three very simple suggestions:

  1. Deliver the first 30 seconds of your pitch like you are a kids’ TV presenter, where every word matters. Hit record on your phone, put it on the mantelpiece and watch what happens with the energy. Watch how physical you are; how your eyes come alive. Once you’ve delivered it as a kids presenter…
  2. Deliver the next 30 seconds in a whisper because when you whisper everything becomes intimate, every word matters. Every word needs to matter when you are pitching. We need to get rid of jargon and phrases that we’ve used to describe our companies that are meaningless, phrases such as ‘online platform’… KILL the jargon!
  3. Re-deliver as normal but bring the kids’ presenter and the whisperer into your body, speaking a little bit louder. I often say to people to imagine they are in a club in Berlin, it’s 3am and someone says “What do you do?” You’ve got to speak LOUD. You’ve got to make every word count because the volume is around and people are trying to grab your attention and you’ve got to say it with passion.

So there you have it: beginning/middle/end, pictures/emotions, the problem, why you, why are you solving the problem, and the delivery to make it happen.

You’ve got to be bold, you’ve got to rehearse, you’ve got to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Only then will you be able to pitch like a pro!

See the results of Stewart’s pitch training at the Northern Stars final. Book your free ticket now.

How to, Rising Stars, Early Stage