If you’re an entrepreneur, you may have heard of a “pitch pit.” It’s a competition that typically occurs at a business incubator event, allowing entrepreneurs with an early-stage business idea the chance to practice presenting in front of a panel of experts. Think “Shark Tank” with a shorter time frame, less money (around $200) and a ton of great feedback from investors and other successful entrepreneurs.
At ACE’16, four to five entrepreneurs will get the chance to present their stripped-down business plan, in four minutes, to a panel of venture capitalists. They’re encouraged to discuss their product or service, how they’re planning to market it, what it will take to be profitable, how much funding they need to get started and information about their team members.
The panelists can then ask questions before casting their vote. Audience members may be allowed to ask questions while the judges are voting.
Stew Nelson, the president of the New Enterprise Forum, gave his advice on what it takes to win in a pitch pit competition. “The people who are pitching in these contests are newcomers so they make mistakes, which is a good thing, as there is less at stake here” Nelson explained. “Sometimes they focus too much on the product and not enough on the other factors. They forget that they’re selling their idea, not their product to venture capitalists. Those potential investors want the entrepreneur to focus on the company and how you’re going to make money.”
Here are Nelson’s five tips for rising to the top in a pitch pit contest AND getting the most out of the experience:
THE FIRST 30 TO 45 SECONDS ARE CRITICAL
This is when you’ll need to grab the audience with your hook. What engages them? Take this first section of your pitch to give the panelists a glimpse into your customer’s pain and how your product or service addresses it.
In most competitions, you have a very limited amount of time to present. In a 4-minute pitch, allowing 30 seconds each to cover six topics will allocate some extra time in case you go over.
FOCUS ON THE ENTIRE BUSINESS, NOT JUST THE PRODUCT
The topics of most interest to investors, according to Nelson, are the problem, the solution, the business revenue model and the team. How big is the market you’ll be serving? What’s your go-to-market strategy? Who is the competition? Are there any concerns about intellectual property? How are you going to make enough money to make it worthwhile for them to invest? Who’s giving you support and advice? Who are your partners and what experience do they have? And, of course, how much money do you need?
EXPRESS YOUR PASSION
Show your passion and personality during your pitch. According to Nelson, “People who laugh and smile during their pitch usually turn out to be the winners.”
PAY ATTENTION TO THE QUESTIONS YOU’RE ASKED
The pitch pit gives you the chance to hear from objective outsiders, people who don’t know anything about your concept. The questions they ask will point out areas you need to consider or shore up.
A pitch pit lets you practice in front of an audience, something you should be doing regularly. If you’re launching a business, you’ll need to be able to present well to be successful. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And while the participants for the Pitch Pit have already been selected for ACE’16, it’s sure to be a learning experience for the early stage entrepreneurs in the audience.
Don’t miss The Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship (ACE) event, January 26, 2016. The ACE event is the place where entrepreneurs from all over the Great Lakes region gather to network, learn and connect. http://ace-event.org/registration-2/