The Psychology of Pitching

Consider the psychology of pitching – we often get caught up with what is on the slides or with the detail of the technology, and forget we need to weave together a story about our journey and our vision.

Psychology of Pitching a Start Up

As published by 'Inside Small Business'.

The days of no private funding being available in the Australian tech industry have gone. The good news is both new and old funds are on the lookout for our best and brightest start-ups so brush up on your communication skills and learn the art and psychology of pitching.

The structure and makeup of a good start-up pitch deck is readily available and any entrepreneur worth their salt knows time and energy needs to be spent getting it polished and to the highest standard.

Interestingly enough though, I’m not sure how much brainpower is actually driven towards the subtle psychological nuances of a great pitch.

Let’s step out of the realm of investor pitches for a moment and try to analyse why a simple beer or coffee with a friend is enjoyable.

Could it be the topic of conversation? Many people would reply in the affirmative. But I disagree. That very same topic of conversation with a person you don’t gel with suddenly becomes numbingly boring.

So what is that magic ingredient? Simple. The person on the other end of the conversation is engaging and somehow understands what is required to keep you entertained.

Just bear with me for a moment.

Let me take your mind back to a classic Oscar award winning film – The Gladiator. Maximus is forced to win his first gladiator fight. Maximus shouts out at the crowd in disgust: “Are you not entertained, are you not entertained!”

Proximo decides to unlock Maximus’ desire for revenge and explains to Maximus how he had once got an audience with the emperor. Proximo explains, and I quote, “… Learn from me. I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd, win your freedom.

In those words from Proximo can be found a hidden secret that, if uncovered properly, can transform a pitch.

I have seen it all too often. A presenter will get caught up with what is on the slides or with the detail of the technology, and forget they need to weave together a story about their journey and the vision they have.

When we watch movies, why is it that we cry, laugh, feel sympathy, empathy, anger and elation? It’s because the director and his team are experts in storytelling.

Allow me to reword Proximo’s advice to Maximus into start-up terms. It would go something like this: “Capture the investor, capture your opportunity at success.”

This is, of course, much more difficult to do than following a skeleton of a pitch deck.

  1. Research your audience
  • their likes and dislikes
  • articles about them
  • LinkedIn

  1. Less is more when opening a pitch
  • think big picture
  • make your opening slide memorable
  • consider using a HD image that somehow relates to your topic

  1. Make a tweet – a short statement that describes succinctly what you do
  • there are many terms to describe this but the latest is tweet
  • other terms are elevator pitch or a 30-second pitch
  • make it engaging and interesting
  • put this on your front slide
  • make sure it’s short (two sentences max)
  • be very sure that it describes what you are doing

  1. Tell a personal story
  • every start-up has many interesting and individual stories
  • choose one or two that may engage your investor
  • find the right time in the pitch to tell them
  • humour is always appreciated, if you can pull it off (If you can’t pull off humour, stay away from it)

  1. Have few words in your deck
  • make the deck graphical and illustrative
  • you should know your pitch and the deck should be a visual aid,
  • don’t simply read the words that appear on the slide

  1. Have two decks
  • one for pitching
  • one for emailing out (this one has more words in it)

  1. Do something to create dialogue
  • consider asking a question that will interest and involve the crowd

  1. Sell the vision
  • start with your vision and beliefs
  • capture your audience
  • then get into more detail

  1. Use a graphic designer
  • don’t under estimate the power of a professional looking deck
  • a visually beautiful deck makes a great impression
  • please don’t use a deck with “copy-paste” items from word

  1. Don’t be desperate
  • no-one ever landed the supermodel by begging for a date
  • present confidently and keep in your back pocket that there are other sources of money

Remember this the next time you need to pitch; one little story could change everything.

Lior Stein, Director, Rimon Advisory