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 an empty office the night before an event, Music for Pets founder Amman Ahmed can be found striding up and down reciting the pitch he has just written. It may sound late in the day, but Manchester-based Ahmed, whose business produces calming music for animals via YouTube and apps, has found he works most effectively under pressure – and there was no greater pressure than his royal audience at Pitch@Palace at St James’ Palace.
“For me, public speaking used to be the most frightening thing ever, so it’s taken me a while to become comfortable doing it,” he says. When his employees have gone home for the night, he plays hip-hop music to write his presentation and then delivers it to the desks and chairs. “It gets you in that fight mood, gets you pumped up and focused,” he says. “If I prepared a week before it wouldn’t work for me because I’m a last-minute person.”
Practising to a timer is also useful, and it can be a painstaking process ensuring you fit in all the details without rushing it. When he can do a three-minute speech in two minutes and thirty seconds, he then assesses which parts to slow down to fill the remaining 30 seconds.
It’s a process he has also refined with experience. When people initially laugh as he explains the concept of his business, he allows a pause for that laughter to die down before he gets into the serious side – like how much the business can generate monthly. That way it has more impact.
Start with the problem
His pitch itself starts with the problem, the solution, the market potential and revenue, as well as the ask. Importantly, though, don’t use cue cards, says Ahmed, as they can be a massive distraction. He prefers to memorise what he has written word for word and feels similarly about slides, keeping to just one with key information on it.
Then comes the delivery and here he suggested picking out the “friendliest-looking person in the room” and starting your pitch to them to gain confidence – for Ahmed at Pitch@Palace this was businessman Peter Jones. “I could see he had a massive smile on his face before I started so I made eye contact with him.” Build up to looking at more people and ensure you address both sides of the room.
For the questions after your pitch, there is really no other way to prepare than just knowing your business inside out and you’ll always wish you’d said something differently, Ahmed adds.