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Presenting & Pitching 101

Remy Sharp

Benjamin Southworth

May 03, 2019

I've a dirty confession to make. I love Dragon's Den. ( If you're in the US & Canada or maybe ROW, you'll know it as Shark Tank) I'm not proud of this. It's utterly unrealistic and very "TV", all emotional exploitation and "DRAMA". I'd never suggest that this show was how business is done, and many of the supposed deals that are done, fall through after more detailed due diligence. Success and investment - at least in the UK version - seems to be the exception rather than the rule. So does that mean there's nothing to learn?

Far from it! In fact, I think there's much to be learned, if only by the ( sometimes horrific ) mistakes.

Now, following on from the nature of confessions, I've another to make. I've been a pitch trainer for a long, long time. It started way back in the 3beards when we ran hackathons, and more generally, over the last 20 years of startup life, I've seen more pitches than anyone can be expected to remember. To say I've seen 10,000 pitches at least in real life, let alone, watching in my spare time, is probably frighteningly conservative.

I then mentored, coached, and facilitated all manner of Startup Weekends, and for the last two years, worked at RockStart as pitch coach. Now I lecture on Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Ada: NCDS.

So, why on earth am I now watching pitches in my spare time? Well, we're passionate about communicating beautifully here at OneDeck, and over the years I've learned a few simple tricks to make sure your pitch is perfect, and how to seal that deal.

Let's deal with some basics. This is the bare minimum you should think about every single time you pitch or present. Do not skip these steps, no matter how experienced or confident you are.

1. KYFN ( Know your numbers )

Business is pretty straightforward. Money comes in, money goes out, hopefully there's stuff leftover.

To not know the in's and out's of your business is pretty lame. It's not necessary to be THE NUMBERS person, but it is necessary to know that you've studied them, and remembered them, if only for this pitch. Luckily life isn't Dragon's Den, so you can often display them on the screen, or have notes, but what ever you do, and however you do it: KYFN.

2. KYFA ( Know your audience )

Knowing who you are talking to is an essential part of trying to communicate ideas. If you're pitching to a room of people, who are they? Can you get the invite list from the organisers? Can you google them ahead of time? Can you follow them on twitter/angellist/FB/LinkedIn etc? Are you pitching in a corporate setting, a startup setting? Is a relaxed event, a formal event? When is it taking place? You need to know as much as you can about this as soon as you can. Once you've got this down, then you can start to think about what you want to say, and how you're going to say it. There's a saying that says "act like you belong", in pitching I call it: KYFA and behave accordingly.

3. KYFS ( Know your-self )

Standing up in front of people is most people's personal little hell. The idea of scrutiny, or being observed, watched, critiqued is an incredibly common phobia. In fact, during my trainings, I often point out that those who enjoy doing it are often quite strange people, and frequently a little damaged. I refer you to comedians, actors, musicians, & performers more generally. It is the exception, not the rule, to enjoy being on show.

That said, if you want to be a founder, and be successful, you're gonna have to get good at it. Even Zuckerberg tries his best. (albeit with limited results...)

Stand in front of the mirror, and learn to look at yourself, not in a way that's judgemental, but in a way that you may look at a stranger on the street. How relaxed do you look? Are you slouching? What's your comfortable position? Are your hands in your pockets? Do you squint?

Learn to stand up straight, with your hands out of your pockets, palms up, and try to adopt an open, relaxed, non-threatening stance, don't fold your arms, don't fiddle with your clothes or hair etc. How do you move around, can you walk around the stage to help make a point? Can you use your body to help you emphasise a point?

I'll grant you, this is a huge topic, but that's the basics. I'd recommend finding a coach if you want to know more, and if you're on any of the sales side of a business, you need to understand body language as it tells you more than the customer would want you to know. :)

4. KYFV ( Know your value/values )

Why are you here? No, seriously. Is the purpose of this pitch/presentation to get sales? Drive usage? Gain investment? Display expertise? Knowing this will help you craft a perfect story and can will, in turn, make you more confident because you'll know why you there and what you are asking for.

The other way to think about this is "Why do you love this business?" or "What about it gets you out of bed in the morning?" - The more you can answer this question the more confident you'll appear, and that goes a very long way indeed.

5. Research aka KYFI ( Know your investors )

This is something people get dangerously wrong, it really, really, really pays off to know what else the investor has invested in, and to make reference to it ( where appropriate to do so ) most investors like to leverage pre-existing investments to your/their advantage. Help them think about that opportunity. Hopefully post-pitch/presentation there's a Q&A session, knowing whom you are answering helps you cater your answer appropriately. Be smart, be tactical, be informed.

Oh, and use OneDeck to help you.

As ever, get in touch of you need any help with your deck or pitch etc. I'm happy to help.

Benjamin x  


Here's a few extra maxims I'd like to share with those who scrolled to the bottom.

If you apply the following to the above as you construct your deck/presentation/talk/pitch you should be further ahead than most.

“If someone doesn’t understand something you’re trying to explain, it’s your fault, not theirs. Work harder to keep it simple, concise and clear” 

“Our businesses can be like babies. We believe them uniquely beautiful and wonderful. Founders can often be defensive to the point of obstinance, investors are looking for rational adaptability, not pigheaded blindness in pursuit of success”

“Investors are not, despite their best intentions, purely altruistic. How are they going to get their money back? When could they get their money back? “