Pitch Perfect: Tips For Getting Judges To Love Your Startup

No one likes being judged – but it's part and parcel of life as a startup. In order to be accepted into an accelerator, get funding, or even attract top talent, you need to know how to present yourself and your company in a way that people who will be judging you will feel confident about your ability to succeed.

Since at MassChallenge we help startups win, we want to make sure you know what it takes to create that feeling of confidence as you're selling your startup to different audiences. Don't miss these insider tips based on advice from MassChallenge judge Jonathan D. Draluck, in order to upgrade your pitching from the minor leagues to the all-star game.

tips for pitching

  1. Do Your Homework. Since you've scored an audience with someone you're trying to impress, make sure you come prepared. If you consistently don’t have answers to basic questions, you'll be wasting everyone's time and leave a bad impression. Make sure you know your market, industry trends, and how your product or service fits in. You want the judges to think you've put work into this – and if you want your startup to succeed you're going to need to do a LOT of hard work.
  2. Admit What You Don’t Know. Even when you've done your homework and are aware of your vulnerabilities, there will still be areas where you are unsure of how to proceed, especially if you are an early-stage startup. You don't have to act like you have all the answers. If you don't know something, say, "I need to check, can I get back to you with an answer offline?" (and don't forget to follow up). In addition, by being honest about what you don't know you may get valuable ideas from your audience on how to proceed.
  3. Leave an Impression. When pitching, you not only want to make a favorable impression while you're in the room – you need to make sure you're remembered once you're gone. You can accomplish this by leaving the judges with an interesting and fun soundbite that is easy to tell at a party. This can be how your company is uniquely addressing a need in your industry, a humorous way you deal with problems, or a personal story of how you came up with the idea for your startup. At the very least, by learning how to deliver fun facts about your brand, you'll be leaving breadcrumbs of your company's name around town.
  4. Be Different. Make sure it's clear how your company is unique (and better than the competition). This might sound obvious, but unless you make an effort to show how you're different, judges or VCs won't feel compelled to pick you over a company with a similar sounding product. This is important not just for pitching, but the uniqueness of your technology or product impacts your company's DNA and culture, so you want to make sure you've put serious thought into this.
  5. This Isn't Vegas – They're Not Interested In Taking Dumb Risks. Even if you come in with an amazing high-impact, high-potential idea, if you don't have a plan for how to identify and overcome risks, accomplish milestones, build a team, file a patent, and other practical tips for how to move your startup forward to a sustainable company, you'll be unlikely to garner the support of whomever you're pitching to.

This might seem like a lot to have to incorporate into your already harried preparation for pitching. As the saying goes - the harder the training the easier the battle, so make sure to train with these tips and see how you do at your next pitching opportunity.