5 Epic Fails in Pitching

5 Epic Fails in Pitching

I love office hours and listening to pitches – most of the time. This week I had an odd meeting that reminded me of some epic fails in pitching your startup idea. I will protect the “Pitching Parties” in this post and not identify them, but here are some quick reminders and lessons learned:

  1. Don’t be on time – this is just a business requirement to build credibility. If you’re late and the person has a meeting after you, your time will cut short. But more important than that, you’ve shown a lack of respect for the person you’re meeting with. This is a cultural and family of origin topic. Some cultures (and cities for that matter) have a different range or minutes that it’s OK to be late – but generally is just poor planning and prep on your side. If you can’t make that time because you have another meeting or still have a day job, pick another time you can make. If it has to be early in the day, that’s ok. But don’t be late.
  2. Don’t Practice – Stick to your script and topic of making your main thing the main thing of your meeting. You want to get into a dialog – but you need to make sure that the investor is asking the questions that you want them to be asking. Let me give you an example: you have a secret sauce, great, how will you explain it without compromising your trade secrets? You need to have that answer in advance. Waving your hands and talking about how magical your solution is or the awesomeness of your “superpower” doesn’t provide credibility.
  3. Don’t Listen – if you’re the only one talking, you will never learn more than you already know. If the investor isn’t asking questions, they have either lost interest or they are bored. Neither of those outcomes are good for you. Plan breaks in your pitch to have enough “space” for you to take a breath and ask for participation. If an investor knows your market, you may want to ask the question “If this was going to fail, why would it fail?” You will learn a lot from that question and it may change your strategy months or years earlier in the process.
  4. Don’ Have an Ask – we know you have one, just be clear about what the ask for what you actually want from the meeting. Are you looking for customer referrals, potential investment, team members? Even if you’re not currently raising capital you need to have an ask. At very least, ask for permission to put them on your regular email list – if you don’t have one yet, start it today. Every two weeks you should send out a summary email about progress and updates.
  5. Don’t Summarize – you get to set the final conclusion of the meeting. Leave yourself enough time to summarize what you want the investor to remember. I watch too many meeting trails off at the end and rather than ending on your strength they end in weakness.

First impressions matter – they cause early judgments. And early judgments are difficult to overcome without additional time. Time is one thing you haven’t yet earned in this relationship.


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