You know the importance of pitching if you are an entrepreneur seeking funding. The first step in creating a compelling pitch deck and finding a hook is to create one. Next is to test your pitch and see if investors respond.
Get feedback on your pitch deck
It would help if you had feedback. For example, your pitch might look like it’s a breeze on paper. But until you put everything together, your deck and plan are only hypothetically solid.
Before you present your investor pitch, make sure to review your metrics with industry experts.
Your chances of success are greater if you have more people evaluating your pitch before investors. You have more opportunity to spot any mistakes in reasoning, assumptions that are unclear to your audience or things that don’t make sense.
What feedback should I ask?
You should be clear about what feedback you are looking for before approaching someone to review your pitch. It will allow them to focus on the elements of your pitch and answer any questions that you may have. These are some elements you should focus on.
A general anaesthetic
Sometimes style can overshadow substance. For example, a pitch deck may be so visually appealing that it is overwhelming or out of touch that it becomes unusable. Try to put aside any personal investment and answer these questions.
Does your pitch deck fit your current brand? Are the graphics consistent, clear, and practical? Are the images appropriate for each slide’s focus?
It should still look stylish and engage your audience. However, it would help if you also considered how your slides relate to the story you are telling and how they convey the essence of your brand.
Clarity of content
It is an excellent way to tie in with the visual aesthetic, but it focuses more on the content. It is easy to fill your deck with too many slides that have no purpose. Instead, ask your audience to point out any areas that are redundant, unfocused or irrelevant.
You want investors to be able to understand your pitch deck easily. You may need an extended appendix similar to your business plan that investors can look at later. It is essential to present the information clearly and not just copy what you have already covered verbally.
You may not include the correct information in your pitch. Your pitch can be ruined if you don’t have the correct information, such as a roadmap or an outline of how funds will be used.
Ask those who are reviewing your pitch to ask any questions about your company. Then, find ways to address any gaps or issues that you notice in your pitch.
Where can I get feedback about my pitch?
Who are the best people for reviewing your pitch? Based on the advice of Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software and Josh Cochrane (VP of Product Development), I have broken down some of the options entrepreneurs can use to get feedback on their pitches. A few entrepreneurs also shared their best resources.
1. Practice potential pitching investors
Investors who are likely to invest in your business can be a great place to begin vetting your pitch.
They will ultimately decide if your business can be a viable investment. So why not get in touch early to find out if you have any gaps in your data or areas that need more attention?
Tim suggests that potential investors attend a “pre-pitch” session before the formal pitch session. This strategy worked well for Dune Sciences, which was awarded the Willamette Angel Conference investment in 2014.
Tim says that Dune Sciences asked at least three member investors to drop in on their offices during the week preceding the due diligence session and pitch session. Each of them was invited individually, and they all sat down for the pitch and made comments. It was clear that the three people who agreed to do it had some relationship with the founders before they accepted. They were rewarded with a good pitch and about $300K in seed capital.
It may also be worthwhile to meet with investors from outside your industry. Investors who invest in different areas can often provide valuable feedback not available to those working in your industry.
It will be discussed more in our discussion on angel investors. First, however, it is a good idea for both investors you have identified as potential investors in your company and others outside of your industry who may assist in advisory capacities.
2. Ask angel investors
A good strategy is to target a specific angel investor since they will often be willing to review your pitch.
Although every angel investor might not invest in your company because they may have a different investment focus, they can still provide valuable feedback. It would be an excellent opportunity to concentrate on the expertise of investors and not the industry. Instead of pursuing funding through them, work with them to find holes in your company.
Tim recommends that you check out Gust which lists local and regional angel groups. You can then reach out to angels in your local area
AngelList also allows you to search by location and find angel investors in advisory capacities. In addition, it will enable you to locate angel investors in your region who might be open to giving you feedback.
3. Find a mentor to help you establish a relationship
Mentorship can make a huge difference in your success as an entrepreneur. Your most valuable asset is a mentor in your industry. They can help you get advice, answer questions and share your ideas.
A mentor with whom you have built a strong relationship may be the one who can give you honest, sometimes frustrating feedback that will help you improve your business pitch. For example, Sean Higgins, co-founder of Los Videos, says that it is essential to find people who will not be afraid to criticize your projections or tell you that you are putting yourself at risk with slide XYZ
Where can you find a mentor to help you succeed? Zylo founder Bryan Conklin and CEO recommend SCORE to help entrepreneurs connect with potential mentors. He says, “I was recently assigned a mentor by SCORE who gave valuable feedback on my pitches as well as my plans for the company.” “I intend to use SCORE’s resources as well as my mentor to improve my approach towards the company.”
4. For feedback, ask your customers
We’ve already covered many ways entrepreneurs can get feedback from industry professionals to help them vet their pitches. While getting input from industry professionals or investors is essential, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. It’s equally important to seek feedback from potential customers.
Josh says that entrepreneurs should test their ideas by asking their customers for feedback. These are the best people to validate a company’s potential.
While we don’t recommend that you sit down with potential buyers to go over your pitch deck, it is a good idea to ask them key questions.
Josh suggests the following questions:
- Is this a problem you are facing?
- What is the problem?
- What are your options? These are the options you have tried. What do you think?
- What do you think about our solution?
- Is it a good solution?
- What would you pay to get our solution?
- Do you have an idea of the price you would be willing to pay for it?
It will help you get feedback about your product and inform your pitch. In addition, you would help if you addressed any recurring themes you find in customer feedback in your pitch.
Do your potential customers, for example, say that they would purchase your product even if it were expensive because they believe it will solve their problem. Then, it will help you to reduce investor anxiety.
5. Visit your local Small Business Development Center
An excellent resource for information about a wide range of business topics, the local Small Business Development Center is a reliable and trusted source.
The U.S. Small Business Administration operates the SBDCs, which offer entrepreneurs and business owners a range of low- or free-cost services such as consulting, business plans development and assistance in finding investors and lenders.
Set up a time when you can visit your branch. Tim says that almost all units will have someone to help you polish your pitch. However, services can vary depending on where you live.
6. Participate in a university’s entrepreneurship centre
Your school probably has many resources available to you if you’re still at university.
From MIT’s Martin Trust Accelerator to the University of Oregon’s Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship–which offers students a chance to participate in events like the New Venture Championship–your college is likely to have resources through its school of business.
Are you not currently a student at the school? Contact your school to get access; many schools also allow former students. Also, check out local universities to see if they have programs that you are interested in. Even if you don’t attend, you may access some resources or get feedback from faculty. You can also find information at university entrepreneurship centres about any upcoming competitions you might be eligible to enter.
7. Join a coworking space
There are many benefits to coworking spaces. First, they offer a space to work from home, which is often a necessity for entrepreneurs who don’t have an office yet and a chance to meet new people, make connections, and get feedback.
Bryan is a great coworker and highly recommends it for entrepreneurs who need feedback on their pitches. He says, “I joined a West Palm Beach coworking space in February 2014 and received excellent feedback from other startups and visiting mentors on the pitches.” Coworking is great because it allows you to meet like-minded entrepreneurs who will help you vet your ideas and pitch. They can also empathize with the struggles.
You will make connections, talk with potential mentors and get the word out on your business. However, you can also receive feedback from potential customers as well as potential investors.
8. Enter a competition
Pitching and business plan competitions are great ways to get specific feedback.
Tim recommends that entrepreneurs check this list of competitions. Although quality and prize money can vary from one round to the next, they can serve as a great place to practice pitching in a context that allows for feedback.
Sean Higgins participated in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management MN Cup. He said it was an invaluable help in getting advice. The process provides a lot of feedback. It covers everything, from how your executive summary should look to how your information was presented.
He says, “Don’t let pitch competitions get you down!” We agree.
9. Send your pitch to family and friends
It is a common saying that your product idea should be simplified into a language that children can understand. Unfortunately, your investors might not be as versed in jargon and as invested in your startup as you.
You can now take your pitch one step further by presenting it to your family, friends, and children. (But, we don’t recommend approaching strangers or pitching on a busy street. You might get some funny looks).
It’s an excellent way for you to highlight any omissions in your business description. Although you might think that something is apparent to you, others who are less familiar with your industry may not. Therefore, it’s essential to be as comprehensive as possible when pitching your company. You don’t want investors to miss out because they aren’t clear on your product or services.
Which type of feedback is the best?
It is a tricky question. Unfortunately, there is no one way to vet your pitch before pitching your business to potential investors. However, it would help if you tried all of them to get the best feedback.
Your ultimate goal is to cover all bases. Make sure you have accurate numbers, and your ideas are easy to understand. Getting feedback from multiple sources is an excellent way of doing this.
Disclaimer. The opinions and views expressed in this article are the authors Judge Napolitano.