Pitch Perfect: The art of pitching


Creating and delivering the perfect business pitch is a skill and it can be an exhilarating experience. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll be wondering what your audience wants to see from a pitch.

We asked two of BNZ’s past Startup Alley judges, one of the great Startup Alley MCs and co-founder of Webstock Mike Brown, for the top 2 things they do, and do not, want to see from a business pitch. 

Mike Brown @maupuia - Webstock Co-Founder

Things I DON’T want to see:

  1. We’ve had people just freeze as soon as they get on stage and go completely blank on their pitch, and then struggle with questions. You’ve got to feel for them, but… so awkward for everyone!
  2. Running over time - we don’t want to see this because it means you might be missing out on telling the winning conclusion of your pitch, we are strict on time keeping!

Things I DO want to see:

  1. Succinct pitches whch really tell the story of your business and your aspirations.
  2. Pitches that really take into account that this is an opportunity, you can get so much more from this competition than just the awesome prizes, win over those potential clients in the audience!

Harry Ferreira @HarryferreiraO -  Head of Small Business, BNZ

Things I DON’T want to see:

  1. No planning for future growth, I want to see that they at least have some idea of how the business is going to survive those early difficult years.
  2. Lack of personality. Be yourself and let us see what you love about your business.

Things I DO want to see:

  1. A unique product, some kind of differentiator, something accessible to customers to make it commercially viable.
  2. Business owners that really want that exposure and to use this competition as a way of helping them bubble to the surface. They should have an obvious drive for success and some resilience, being able to answer some of my more tricky questions should prove that!

Nat Torkington @gnat - 2014 Startup Alley MC

Things I DON’T want to see:

  1. “We’ll crush TradeMe because Kiwis want a Kiwi-owned/green/… competitor.”
  2. “We’ll lose money on each transaction but make it up on scale…”

Things I DO want to see:

  1. Understanding the real problems of prospective or actual customers.
  2. The money.

Stephen Bowe @stephenbowe - Head of Digital, BNZ

Things I DON’T want to see:

  1. Pitches that only focus on the technical side - most people don’t understand developer speak people!
  2. Unpreparedness. That’s just not going to be entertaining or winning, even if your product is the best thing ever invented!

Things I DO want to see:

  1. A passion for the customer and a deep understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve.
  2. In today’s world, average isn’t good enough. So what they’re offering has to be exceptional. It can be a simple solution, but done in an outstanding way.

“Sales is the engine room of any business”

Nail your route to market, sales channel, assumptions and any wins to date to back up your hypothesis. 

Pitch to your audience.

Be engaging, informative, even a little quirky - you want to stand out but seem confident and capable.

An innovative product is essential, but you need to show your passion and planning. Practice your presentation as much as possible - I’m sure your nerves on the day will make sure there’s still a hint of spontaneity and excitement!

Having been through startup alley the best advice I have is to just enjoy it!

Another hint is to spend the time waiting behind stage power posing. A good chesty superman pose will really help with confidence and delivery from the moment you step on stage.

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Be excited about your product. If you don’t seem excited about what you are doing, why would anyone else get excited about it?!
Oh, and use lasers!!!

Practise your pitch so you’re confident, but don’t recite a memorised speech - leave space for spontaneity and humour. Investors back people, not robots. 

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Be prepared -rehearse your pitch . For your cat, your grandma and your bathroom mirror.

“Unpreparedness. That’s just not going to be entertaining or winning, even if your product is the best thing ever invented!”

Be really mindful about the language you’re using and avoid horrible sexist cliches - your product is NOT “so easy even your grandmother could use it” - you don’t know anything about my grandmother!

Don’t forget the basics of public speaking. Take a breath. You’re almost certainly speaking more quickly than you realise. Make eye contact with your audience - or at least look out over their heads! After making a key point, pause… so people have time to absorb what you’re saying.

You are selling yourself as an entrepreneur as much as you are selling your product.  Do your homework and be prepared.  Rehearse your pitch in front of an audience that knows nothing about your product.  Then find another audience and do it again!  And again!  Believe in yourself and take charge of your future!

If you have a prototype or demo, show it but don’t look at the screen the whole time. The audience & judges want to hear from you directly.

When you make a mistake or stumble over your words, pause, take a breath and move on.

Remember that you’re generally far more conscious of your mistakes than the audience.

Don’t mumble, try look at everyone you’re speaking to atleast once.  Remember to smile.

Thanks for your entries, everyone. Our winners are @thedemlz and @_steveadams. Congratulations to you both!