Last Monday we were invited to be on the judging panel for the Mayor Entrepreneur 2017, an event that recognises innovation and rewards those whose ideas have the potential to be taken to the next level.
It’s always nerve-racking presenting your ideas in a way that appeals to your audience, especially an audience which is key to the future of your business.
When you start your own business, you are already confident in the product or service you are offering, but the next step is convincing others to believe and invest in your idea – and this, more often than not, is the hardest part of launching a business.
From the early stage of thinking of the idea; from the product or service to the design of the packaging, you are portraying an image of your company to the outside world. Therefore, the ability to tell the story of what you’ve created is something that should never be undervalued.
My idea of creating a Wi-Fi-enabled kettle that could be controlled from your phone was viewed as bizarre to my friends and family at the time. While it can be hard to filter out the criticism and stand your ground, my ability to explain to them the thought process behind the product ultimately won them, and later investors, over.
But how can you tell the perfect business story to win over your audience?
Read the room
A key aspect of any pitch, whether it is to your close family or a room of full of bankers, is reading the room. It’s a skill that comes over time and from practice, but learning to recognise what certain expressions mean will help you shape your story. With the huge array of information available online about people, there is really no excuse for not knowing who you are pitching to and what their interests and hobbies are. You will quickly see that a room of creatives might not be interested in the hard tech behind the product, while a bank will only need to know the financials to make their decision.
Learn your key messages
There are contradicting messages on whether you should change your pitch and messaging when faced with a new audience, but I found that by keeping with the same messages it is easier to stay on track and maintain consistency. Before going into a meeting, outline a handful of key messages you want to express and stick to those. It is important to remember that it is your vision of the brand that you are selling and they are buying into, therefore most of the content should be consistent.
People don’t want to gamble their investment on someone who seems naïve, so it will work in your favour to be upfront about challenges you may face on the way and don’t try to obscure any potential issues that might crop up. Demonstrating an awareness of pitfalls and how you intend to overcome these will show potential investors that you have considered your market properly and have anticipated any future bumps in the road.
Keep it short and sweet
With the best will in the world, everyone has a tendency to waffle when they are under pressure or nervous. Try and pin down your vision for the brand or product into one sentence. If someone was to ask me to describe my company, my one-line response would be: “Smarter is at the forefront of inventive solutions for a more connected life, with plans to revolutionise the heart of the home.” Simple and to the point.
When I went into my first pitch, I wish someone had reminded me to enjoy myself. You only get one shot at a first impression, which is nerve racking but remember- you know more about the product than anyone else! As long as you demonstrate your passion, you are halfway there to convincing them that you are the company for them.
Note: Congratulations to this year’s Mayor Entrepreneur Award winner, Twipes, the brainchild of Alborz and Ellenor. Their startup idea of creating the first truly flushable wipes was the standout from the 10 finalists during the event.
Best of luck to Twipes and everyone else who showcased their innovative ideas yesterday!
Part of this story was originally published on Virgin.com – How storytelling can attract investors