On Pitching – ever evolving…

This week I found myself partly focused on pitches (giving them, observing them, writing them and talking about them). I’ve spent a lot of my career pitching – at IBM pitching senior execs with huge budgets (learned a lot about the basics). The last few years I’ve been focused on investor and business development pitches. Based on my own years of experience, endless research and countless conversations, here are a few quick reminders that were brought back to the forefront of my mind this past week

  • Talk about the money early – you’ll capture more audience and credibility.
  • Customize your pitch – understand your audiences backgrounds and criteria.
  • Never think your pitch is perfect – constantly listen/gauge to your audience to refine the story.
  • Never stop working on your pitch – new information comes in by the minute (thanks Twitter).
  • Don’t tell them everything you know – genius is making complex digestible and simple.
  • Focus on the growth plan – visions are nothing without brilliant execution.

I also came across this great slideshare that distills some of the Guy Kawasaki style stuff – check it out – its called Innovation Equations by Ben Ullman. (thanks Clay Newton for posting it to your side)

My early pitches

My first pitch – This is a great memory and a defining moment in my career. It wasn’t officially a pitch because it was too short and in .xls and not .ppt ; ). But, having just taken my first business class (micro economics) at a local evening community college while working in the lab, I learned a little bit about marginal revenue and cost. So, having just been appointed the job of starting and building a new department I was eager to figure out just how big we could get and how much I’d need to blow it out! So, I went in unannounced to the CEOs office (I did this a lot) and asked if I could share my latest idea. He said yes (they had implemented a lot of my operational ideas) and I began to show him my spreadsheets and talk about how big we could get in year one. I showed him how much more equipement I’d need and how many people. He looked at me and smiled. He said thanks Chris, this is a great analysis, but this isn’t your job. WOW. I was not happy. I said okay and asked if we could revisit in a few months. He said okay. I went home that night and starting applying for business school. I thank him regularly for helping me find a new direction!

My second pitch – I remember creating my first ‘pitch’ at IBM (I was trying to secure multi million dollar commitments). I spent days fine tuning the first draft before I shared it with my boss (big VP guy). I had plenty of data (I wanted to impress my boss – he had a PhD), lots of detail – it really showed just how much I knew about the topic (we had spent a few bucks on Market Intelligence so I had to demonstrate how I used the data to it’s fullest right). I remember presenting it to my boss and getting slammed (getting kicked in the teeth is part of getting better right). Here is my PhD boss telling me I have too much detail and too much data – and oh yeah, I didn’t tell anyone how much more money we’d make by implementing my strategy. Well well – that was a painful lesson, but my boss had fun and he continued to coach me over the coming days to refine it to a pitch that worked (I secured commitments from an ever important ‘influential’ exec to committ to my project). So lesson learned. Then, my boss lined up a meeting for us with another influential exec so I could pitch him the plan. My boss asked to see the deck I was going to pitch and I said “I’m going to use my pitch – the one that we just gave exec [x]”. Hmmm, that didn’t go over well. He said, remember all execs are not motivated by the same drivers (he was a marketing and strategy guy), so we sat down and tweaked the deck to focus on metrics for the operations exec. Again, pitch went great got buy in and moved on. I learned that pitching is an art and the deck is never ‘done’.

Good luck to all of you out there pitching your ideas and companies!

One Response to “On Pitching – ever evolving…”
  1. Bob Prosen says:

    Well done. Short and to the point. I especially like your final point: Focus on the growth plan – visions are nothing without brilliant execution. Having raised capital as well as operate a couple companies I know all too well the importance of turing plans into profit. The “how” make all the difference.
    Bob Prosen
    Former business executive
    Kiss Theory Good Bye

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