Timing is everything. When pitching you need to make others understand that the timing is right.
There was a time I used to advocate a perfect pitch. Now I settle for good enough. Why? Because start-ups or scale-ups fetishize the pitch far too much. A perfect pitch will not save a shitty product or a service nobody needs or cares about. But a bad pitch can bury a product that is good enough.
Think about it – Airbnb, the instant success we all know about. Not that instant if you take a closer look. That company was famously passed on by many smart investors because people thought, "No one's going to rent out space in their home to a stranger." Of course, people proved that wrong. But one of the reasons it succeeded, aside from a good business model, a good idea, great execution, is the timing. Take another unicorn – Uber. Uber came out, incredible company, incredible business model, great execution, too. But the timing was so perfect for their need to get drivers into the system. Drivers were looking for extra money; it was very, very important. Those two companies were perfectly timed. And based on one very exciting NOW – the social trend. This time it was the Post-Lehman-Brothers reality where people became more financially savvy and cautious. Those two companies' success coincided with a perfect power of THAT particular TIME.
Bill Gross who has founded a lot of startups, and incubated many others got curious about why some companies had succeeded and others had failed. He gathered data from hundreds of companies, his own and other people's, and ranked each company on five key factors. He found one factor that stands out from the others -- and that factor is TIMING.
Having said that, TIMING is NOT everything. Execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. Your TEAM matters. But timing might matter even more. And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them. And to be really, really honest about it, not be in denial about any results that you see, because if you have something you love, you want to push it forward, but you have to be very, very honest about that factor on timing.
Timing also matters when you pitch. When pitching you need to make others understand that the timing is right. Hint the change that is about to happen. Make them understand that your idea fits perfectly with one of the following – the social change, the technological change or the legislative change. In short – make them understand it is now or never. Your job is not only to prove the change but to excite others about it, as well.
There was a time I used to advocate a perfect pitch. Now I settle for good enough. Why? Because start-ups or scale-ups fetishize the pitch far too much. A perfect pitch will not save a shitty product or a service nobody needs or cares about. But a bad pitch can bury a product that is good enough. So… I settle for good enough pitch. The two variables you need to work when crafting a good enough pitch are: (a) to be interesting and (b) to be understood.
Basically when you pitch my brain (and any other brain out there listening to your best efforts) operates somewhere on the scales of:
- totally uninteresting – interesting AF
- I totally do not get it – I totally get it.
The best case scenario would be to land on the „I totally understand it and I find it so interesting” end of the scale. And it turns out it is not that difficult. The interesting part is all about getting people excited by „why now” time frame.
Quite recently I have tried out new technique when working with startups of the KPT Scale Up acceleration program. I based it on questions. And those questions were based on the semantic and functional analysis of more than 500 pitches from different competitions and Demo Days like Techcrunch, infoShare, Wolves Summit, ABC Acceleration Demo day and so on. The drill is simple – the person presenting just stands in front of the group without any prior preparation. No slides, no notes. Total improvisation. He or she may only use the knowledge they do possess about their project or idea.
I ask the questions and they have to answer each one using as little words and as much information as possible. No „weeds”, no „marketing bullshit bingo”. It should be simple, understood and… interesting. It turns out that the answers to those questions form a decent pitch they can later on work upon. So I advise they take notes or record the whole thing. The questions are as follows:
Why now is the best time to implement your idea?
By that, I mean why is the high time to really make things happen. Is the world changing? Is there a trend you can ride on? Is technology finally here? Or maybe there is some legislative around the corner that actually helps your idea. The answer should hint the urgency of YOUR action. The time is now! It’s the opportunity that speaks the most. And that my friend is the crucial opening – the intro that hints the inevitable change that will raise some to the top and totally sweep others from the surface of the earth.
The opportunity can be linked to some problem or challenge. What is the problem you are solving?
Here I’m waiting for hardcore proof. I mean numbers, trends, and metrics that you present that help me realize there is a problem and that solving this problem is a true business opportunity.
How are people coping now?
Obviously, they are somehow. So list the 3 possible ways people are trying to cope with the problem they have. Maybe they don’t need you solving their problems. Some skeptics will say… well, the world has survived somehow. And that leads us to next question which is:
What sucks about the way people solve the problem right now?
List no more than 3 things that suck the most about the current solutions. The world NOW is obviously not a perfect place.
What should be done?
Here you hint the idea of the solution. It is not the solution itself. It is the IDEA of the solution. Give the audience the chance to almost come up with the idea WITH you. This way you promote something that is called in psychology the IKEA effect.
What are we doing?
Now we know what should be done and WE (the startup) are doing it. This is our solution. It’s worth stating the Value Proposition here. It’s time to reveal the solution. And answer the following questions…
What are the main benefits of the solution?
What are the key markets for this solution?
How does it work?
How are we making money on it?
Who is the team behind it?
What has been done so far and what are the next steps?
This is time to talk about the milestones and be proud of what you have achieved so far. And to clearly state what challenges are ahead of you only to then state…
What do you need to actually take those next steps?
The answer might be stating the funding goals or simply stating any other specific needs.
Then you finish it with a nice sum up. I recommend the message map I discuss in one of my blog post you can find in the #pitching section on bucki.pro. And voila, you crafted yourself a good enough pitch! Now add the slides when needed and go pitch! Good luck!
Piotr Bucki - For the last 17 years, he has helped people polish communication in different areas. His activities are always based on cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and psycholinguistics. He checks how the theory works in practice while working with companies from Chile, Slovenia, Moldavia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Australia, Italy, and Poland. He is the author of two books – “Porozmawiajmy o komunikacji” and “Złap równowagę”, the co-author and substantive editor of “Startup Manual” (Wolves Summit 2015), the author and counselor of “BuckiAcademia” series published by 4 Glowy publishing house (2016). He publishes articles on InnPoland and www.bucki.pro won a regular basis. He contributes as an author for Mother Mag, Psychologia Społeczna, Dolce Vita, Madame, Marketing w Praktyce and many more. He has translated 12 books in the area of psychology and counseling. He cooperates with the best startup centers in Poland i.a. LPNT, Inkubator Starter, GPNT, and PPNT as well as the biggest government program in the world Startup Chile and Incubators in Slovenia and Austria. He has given speeches at i.a. infoShare, Wolves Summit, Davos Communication Forum, PODIM Słowenia, Internet Beta, Social Media Convent, Inspiration Day in Szczecin, PMI Congress in Antwerp and many more conferences in Poland and around the world.
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