Setting out to help our communities tackle critical issues and its most pressing challenges is no easy undertaking. It often takes a great deal of courage, determination, focus, and drive; In addition to the ability to envision a better future for our world. Those are attributes that most social entrepreneurs and community leaders like us have in common. However, we often time underestimate the amount of money that it will take for us to scale our social entrepreneurship endeavors.
In my industry, I have the privilege and opportunity of working with many entrepreneurs. I always get very excited when I get the chance to witness entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts or ideas for money (some business pitches aren’t always for money, any ask matters). In fact, just last week we hosted a pitch event for a group of small business owners from a business program that I coordinate at Miami Dade College, and the following weekend I got to judge a high school pitch competition. As a founder and creator myself, it is always a learning opportunity for me to take notes on how I could improve my own pitch. So, I spent part of my weekend learning more about the subject. While digging for pitching gold, I came across a great piece from INC. Magazine on “The Art of the Pitch”. If you haven’t gotten your hands on their magazine yet, no worries, I got you covered. They shared tips from some of the top VC’s and investors in the industry and compiled key pitching advice for entrepreneurs. While this section is normally reserved for our Community Workshop Series, it seems fitting for me to break this down for you here because money matters and we want to help you access as much of it as you need for your business. In fact, I gathered so much information that I decided to make this a two blog series so you can chew it one bite at a time. I did pick up the magazine at a community center, where workshops are usually held...so let’s dig in...
Let go of fear!
Let’s grab the bull by the horn, shall we? I’m sure you’ve heard many times how fear can keep us from doing many things right? Well, it can also mess up a great pitch. According to Amy Nauiokas, who’s the founder and CEO of Anthemis; One of the things you should not be afraid of is sharing what keeps you up at night. Go ahead and let your audience know the biggest challenges that you’re facing, even if you do not know all of the answers. Know that sharing your weakness isn’t a weakness, it is often considered a skill to be good at figuring out what you and your company’s weaknesses are. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions. Yes, you may be looking for money, however, know that the investor or your audience may be listening because they are looking for a company to invest in. One of the things you should want to know is what type of relationship investors expect to have with their companies, and be clear of your expectations of them.
Mic check Mic check…are you with me?
Have you ever been to a comedy show or watched one? If so, you can probably tell the difference between the great performers and the average ones. The great ones usually do a good job of reading their audience and knowing when to keep rolling on a subject or switch it. Pitch is probably no joking matter to you, however, it is important to work on the ability to read your audience to know if they are still with you. Josh Makower believes it is totally appropriate to check on your audience and be sure they are still with you. You may quick questions like “are you with me? Does this make sense to you?” That way, you’ll have the opportunity of addressing concerns right away or clear up misunderstandings before moving on and not getting the chance of making an important point. Also, on the same token, if your audience is in agreement with you or seems to get it right way...move on to your next point.
Teamwork makes the dream work
As the founder or leader of a company, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to talk about yourself and your business. The ultimate spotlight is one when you’re pitching and so is one of the best opportunities to talk about your team. Sharing your background, accomplishments and accolades are great, however, investors know that real magic takes a great team to execute. That is why Jenny Abramson of Rethink Impact believes that great leaders are humble and have respect for the other people who are involved. As a founder and major difference-maker, I am sure you have big ambitious goals. Big and ambitious goals so have so many moving pieces and require so many different perspectives and talents to accomplish. If you haven’t assembled a great team yet, maybe you can make it part of your “ask” to be introduced or recommended to great talent.
Be honest and straight to the point
One of the biggest reasons that may influence an investor’s decisions to write you a check will be because they have some level of trust you. You may not be expected to share all of your personal secrets (phew...right? Lol.), but you should be transparent with your business and share what potential stakeholders should know. According to Barry Schuler, if you don’t know the answer to a specific question; it is ok to say “I don’t know the answer to that right now, but I will get it to you” and be sure to follow up. On the same note, you want your presentation and slides to be straight to the point. Too much rambling during your pitch or extra text on your sides may be harmful to a great pitch. The more you can minimize distractions and keep the focus on your main points, the better.
These are some key points and tips that you should consider before scheduling your next pitch appointment or presentation. I hope this piece is helpful and bite-sized enough to throw in your back pocket on your way to securing the bag. Be on the lookout for part 2 of this read, we have more coming. Feel free to share this, if you think someone else will find it valuable.
Notes from the author: Emmanuel is a creator who's passionate about social entrepreneurship and community building. He is a seasoned entrepreneur with 15+ years of business and professional experience. Over the years, he's valued the opportunity to do business and learn from various industries such as banking, sales, marketing, real estate, and management. You may connect with him by clicking here.
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