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Giacomo Balli
The Mobile Guy

Advisor | Consultant | Entrepreneur
Over a decade of mobile experience at your service.
I help business owners navigate and leverage technology.

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How to Make a Successful Pitch of your Startup

I recently relocated to San Francisco as have been amazed by the energy you feel all around. You breath new ideas & technology everywhere you go: form the QR codes with offers in the MUNI to the "respect" a hacker has when introducing himself. It is awesome!
This whole "let's create change" mentality obviously fuels startups. After having chatted with many startuppers here in the bay area, including many italian ones, I would like to share some key notes on how a startup should pitch their idea to a potential investor or VC.
1) Intel Research your target
I have always been an evangelist of "knowledge is power". In todays world everyone is well-informed. The days when media companies and marketing teams told the masses what they needed and wanted are long passed (for the most part). The average user is well educated and you have to do A LOT more work to craft your product - sorry for getting a little sidetracked.
Intel intended as knowing who you're talking to is essential. Try to use all the elements at your disposal to find out as much as you can. This can be thorough Google research on a person including company, interests, side projects, style, tastes, preferences etc. However, sometime you might just meet someone by chance and you need to rely on your own "skills" in a limited time by assessing elements such as where are you, how does he look, clothing, shoes, tan, physique, interaction and so on.
They most common argument against this is that you should have crafted ahead of time a way of presenting yourself and your idea in a way that is "neutral" or at least an MVP that can appeal to the vast majority of the people. However, let's face it, we're all people (most of us) and especially when interacting with each other in real life, a feeling of connection is essential for a successful communication. Talk your receiver's language, make it easy for them to understand and like you.
2) Body language Elements of Body Language
There have been plenty of studies proving (to the few skeptics) how much body language influences or opinion about people regardless of what they say (or don't say). Paying attention to how and what you communicate non verbally is very important. You can find plenty of resources that explain how to convey trust, authority and calmness which will surely help you. Empathy will also make your life much easier. Be happy and radiant and your recipients will subconsciously almost always respond to it.
3) Slide proficiency
I have studied A LOT; meaning I spent many days in classroom. By now I feel like I know immediately when I see a good presentation. In case you're not sure or never even considered if you've been creating effective slides, there are entire websites dedicated to enhancing this tool.  Personally I love reveal.jsReveal.js html slideshow
A tool, that is all it is. A presentation is good only if you're able to do it without slides. Most common mistake with powerpoint slides: overloading. Just don't do it, there are so many reasons that make this a bad habit that I won't going into detail otherwise I get riled up... :) Like a good iPhone app, make it simple, beautiful and efficient.
4) Volume Control voice volume
People need to hear you, but also not be annoyed by the high volume for your voice. If they're too busy trying to hear, they won't be able to listen. Also, this ties in to the body language aspect.
5) Intro / Outro
Introduction and conclusion will definitely be the most important section of your talk. The intro is essential to grab attention and create a connection with the recipient. The conclusion will on the other hand be what they're left with after you leave. Make a lasting impression, repeat what you want them to remember. The better the intro, the better the more memorable your conclusion will be.
6) Be cool
You should be cool in both ways. You want to show you're knowledgeable and confident in what your talking about. Also you don't want to be nervous/cocky. Everyone int he world can teach you something, doesn't matter who they are. We all have our own paths and experiences from which we learned and talking to others is like a free ride to experience. Use it!
7) Be organized
There's nothing worse than being confused especially when someone is pitching something to you. You get bored, not interested, rather be somewhere else... complete waste of time since there is no connection. Try to be organized and concise and always gauge your connection with the audience and fine tune they way and what you present (focusing on different aspects depending on recipient is easier if you're structured).
This will also help you make sure you are not missing any important piece of information. You want your receiver to just say yes, not ask a bunch of questions you didn't answer with your presentation.
8) Don't be a parrot Don't be a parrot!
In italy a parrot is someone who just repeats automatically, without thinking. Not only this is boring (and obvious) but it will also sabotage your performance in case "something" happens... and it always does!
These are some thoughts I'd like to share with fellow startuppers around the world. Obviously it's not an ultimate but guide but hopefully a good starting point. I will feel like I have succeeded if there is anything that resonates with you.
Also make sure you add your own feedback/corrections/considerations in the comments section!

Published: Sun, Sep 30 2012 @ 12:47:25
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