Crafting the perfect tech pitch – Part 1: the ‘nan test’

How to, Northern Stars, Leeds

Jenny BrookfieldJenny Brookfield, November 23, 2017

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

2017 has been a great year for tech businesses to sing the North’s praises. From Northern Stars to Pitch@Palace and everything in between, the region’s best companies have been pitching their hearts out to secure funding, expertise and exposure.

As thoughts turn to next year’s opportunities, we asked five experts about the best ways to pitch a tech business.

In part one of this series, we meet Mark Walsh of Leeds-based Kwizzbit.

‘Approach it as if explaining to your nan’

Mark Walsh spent a car journey from Wales to Manchester listening to a recording of his pitch as he travelled to meet TV’s harshest business critics. The chief executive and founder of Leeds-based Rocket Horse appeared on the BBC’s Dragons Den this year to pitch his pub quiz technology game, Kwizzbit.

The technique is so effective he can now reel off one-minute, three-minute and five-minute versions of his presentation at the drop of a hat.

Though he is not lacking in confidence, the biggest problem he found at the beginning was keeping to strict time limits.

“I like to talk and I can stand up in front of people and talk about our product, but when I have to keep to a certain time I do have to practice and time myself,” he says. He admits he changes his pitch every time he delivers it to keep it fresh, also tailoring it to the audience he is addressing.

“I’m quite conversationalist and relaxed and my pitch isn’t as structured as other people’s, although I do get a little bit technical when I’m talking about the solution to the problem I’ve introduced,” he says.

“I like to approach figures and the technical side as if I’m explaining it to my nan. I do get nervous at the start but within the first few seconds I’m fine, and I think if I ever stop getting nervous then it means I don’t want it as much.”

Safety nets

Because of his struggles with timing, Walsh says he has a “safety net” – usually a point written on his hand or a note on his phone that can bring him back to where he should be in his talk. “It’s a bit of a trick and a cheat but nobody’s any the wiser and it looks more professional that if I had pieces of paper.”

Some pitches have not gone well, and they tend to be those where he’s not managed to fit in all his points or those where no-one asks a question at the end. To prevent the latter from happening, he suggests not giving everything away in your pitch so that a panel asks for more information.

Walsh also suggests watching others pitching before you go on so you can gauge the reaction of the audience, and he admits he often asks to go on last so he can do this. Among the worst pitches he has seen was one where the speaker got his notes mixed up and another where the presenter had obviously had a few drinks to calm his nerves.

“You should be comfortable with yourself and your own personality, don’t try to be someone you’re not and don’t cram everything in – if people are interested they will come and ask you afterwards,” Walsh adds.

Look out for part 2 of this series next week.