What Makes a Great Pitch?
Updated: Jan 9
Public speaking rarely comes easy. In fact, many surveys show that people fear public speaking more than death itself.
I’m no stranger to the racing heart, clammy palms and an overwhelming urge to run that often accompanies getting up in front of a group. But I’ve learned to overcome these feelings with a variety of tools. This pitch template is one of them.
I’m not a public speaking expert, but I’ve been opening events and pitching my ideas for the last couple of years and I have learnt a few things along the way that have helped me become a better speaker.
Most recently, I have been doing a great deal of speaking related to a business I’m involved in called Vxt. More about that here. I have had a lot of fun sharing our idea with a variety of audiences, ranging from 200+ members of the public earlier this year, to a small panel of business experts in February. Having a solid pitch has allowed us to raise over 100 thousand dollars to help out with the costs of starting our business.
With the help of mentors, advisors and friends I have developed this easily adaptable template for pitching a business or project. So here it is, along with a few examples from some extraordinarily successful companies and our most recent pitch deck.
What’s broken? Explaining the problem might be the most important section of a business pitch and should always be the first slide. It's the start of the story you’re creating in the audience's mind. I like to start off with a character who will return throughout the pitch so that it’s easier for my audience to imagine the people that suffer from the problem and who might benefit from our solution.
You’ll notice that my slides are intentionally minimalistic. Personally, I prefer to have the audience focus on what I am saying, rather than reading information from the slides. I have found this tends to keep people more engaged. However, in some cases it can be necessary to include more detail.
How are you going to fix it? This is where you explain the particular solution you’re working on and how it solves the problem you’ve shared. For us this section is short, just one slide. It highlights the core features of our solution and how they solve the problem.
Our solution is based on voicemail, which most people have a general understanding of. If your business concerns a more complicated solution you might require more detail and more slides to explain it coherently.
What's your unique selling point? The purpose of the competition section is to lay out how your business is different from your competition and why those differences matter to your customers. There are a variety of ways to display a competitive landscape visually, but the one I like best can be seen in the example below.
This can be one of the hardest, yet one of the most important sections of a pitch to get right. It’s also one of the most common that founders get wrong. If you’re new to competitive analysis Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore has a great chapter on analysing and communicating competition and is a great read for anyone involved in a new tech business.
4. Business Model
How do you make money? The business model slide should include how your business generates revenue, the price points you have settled on and any evidence you’ve got to support them. Here’s a great example from one of AirBnB’s earlier pitch decks.
What’s great about this slide is that it communicates exactly how AirBnB generates cash and what that translates to in actual revenue. The business model slide should convince your audience that you will be able to make money from your solution. If you haven’t started selling your product or service yet, include forecasts or testimonials from potential customers you have interviewed. Validation is crucial.
5. Market Opportunity
What is the potential for growth? This section is especially important if you’re presenting to a group of investors, less so when you’re in front of the general public. Here's another example from AirBnB.
The key point of comparing your market share or target market to the other market segments shown above is to demonstrate the opportunity for growth. Something the AirBnB team achieves perfectly in this slide.
When will your business hit key milestones? Creating a timeline for your business is a really useful exercise. Not only will it help you communicate where you are at in your startup journey, it also gives you a good starting point for planning out how you should best spend your time to meet your goals. Preferably, this slide would include what you have already achieved as in the example from Buffer below.
What makes you the right people/person to do this? If your team has particular experience that makes you well suited to build this business this is the place to mention it.
In his TED talk, Bill Gross suggests that the team accounts for 32% of the difference between a startups' likelihood of success and failure. Make sure not to sell yourself short. If you don’t convince the audience that you are well placed to execute your business plan then the rest doesn’t matter.
What do you want from your audience? The ask is usually a short statement of intent, at or near the end of your pitch, and what you’re asking for depends completely on who you’re speaking to. If they’re investors, how much money are you looking to raise and what will you offer in return. On the other hand you might be pitching to potential customers, in which case you might like them to visit your website or download your app.
This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it actually a perfect one. This template is just a starting point. Good luck with developing your own pitch!
Luke Campbell is a co-founder of Vxt, a smart assistant application which converts voicemail to text. Luke has previously been involved in the non-profit sector and currently sits on the board of a variety of organisations in Christchurch, New Zealand.