By this point in my startup career, I’ve easily seen thousands of startup pitches. Maybe tens of thousands. What’s more, I’ve also had the privilege of working with hundreds of founders to workshop, refine, and polish their pitches for both VC pitches and on stage presentations. So if you’re a founder prepping to jump on stage at an upcoming startup competitions or demo day, I thought it might be beneficial for you if I shared a little advice that any number of founders have found valuable as they developed the stories of their startups to tell in front of a live studio audience…
Seeing a lot of startup pitch competitions — both established and brand spanking new — starting to bubble up. Which reminds me to remind you, dearest startup founder, that a pitch is a performance. But a pitch on stage is a very different performance from a pitch to a VC. 🧵👇
For a stage performance describing your startup — like a pitch competition or a demo day — I always coach founders to augment their standard pitch with a couple of additional elements (and tweak others) to ensure that your company gets the attention and accolades it deserves:
1. The Hook: The first words out of your mouth. It should be terse and provocative. It should make the audience think. Or do a double take. And it should set the foundation for the story about the solution and company you're building. NOTE: This is more difficult than you think.
2. The Bulk: These are the typical elements of the pitch: problem, solution, market, team, yadda yadda yadda. Just extract "the Ask." Because you're going to want to put that at the end. The bulk is your reward to the audience for paying attention to your hook. Act accordingly.
3. The Reveal: Share a "secret" with the audience that makes them feel special for showing up to the event. A win that is new and unique to this moment in time/event, not public knowledge. "And today, for the first time ever, I'm excited to announce…" Applause follows 👏👏👏
4. The Ask: You'll want to move your typical ask from the VC pitch to the end — and you'll want to customize it so that it's an ask that the audience/judges can satisfy. Don't ask for money if they don't have checkbooks. Don't ask for users if they're looking to invest.
It probably goes without saying but if you take the time, energy, and sweat 😅 to craft and then nail the delivery on #1, they'll be rapt with attention for #2. And if you double down on #2 with a great #3, they'll be enthusiastically leaning forward and ready to help with #4.
As always, take this with a grain of salt and use what works for you. YMMV. But after seeing thousands of pitches and working with hundreds of founders to help them craft both VC pitches and on stage pitches, these are the main differences that, well, make the difference IMHO. 🔚