By: Bianca Buliga, Digital Marketing Manager
Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.
No, not “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, but glossophobia (noun): an abnormal fear of public speaking that induces mom’s spaghetti.
For decades, numerous polls have confirmed that Americans are just as terrified of public speaking as they are of terrorist attacks, spiders, a loved one’s death, or creepy clowns.
Unfortunately, social entrepreneurs don’t have the option of letting their fears cripple them. The nine founders in D.C.’s inaugural full-time cohort are only three weeks away from Demo Day 2017, where they will pitch their ventures in front of thousands at the Warner Theatre!
Each three-minute business pitch will: introduce founder and venture, sell a product or service, and hopefully pique the interest of potential investors sitting in the audience. Needless to say, each founder must conquer their public speaking fears and use the spotlight to present their hard work in a confident and intriguing way!
Lauren McDanell, SEED SPOT’s Director of Community Training and Support, has become an expert in teaching entrepreneurs how to deliver a foolproof business pitch. Lucky for you, she’s letting SEED SPOT share some of her best tips and tricks free of charge:
- The Pump-Up Song
No, seriously. Everyone has a pump-up song, whether it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (Galileo, Galileo), “Hey Ya!” by OutKast (shake it, sh-shake it), or “Single Ladies” by Queen Bey (‘cause if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it).
Channel Michael Phelps and jam out to the one you love most before walking out on stage. One of Lauren’s is “Bo$$” by Fifth Harmony, and she knows it’s ridiculous. Bonus points if you have a pump-up playlist.
- Be Confident and Concise
Some entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being too humble or too verbose in their three minutes of DEMO DAY fame. Lauren says “avoid thanking the audience for being there at the start of your pitch or long-windedly thanking them for their attention at the end of the pitch. A simple ‘thank you’ (if anything) and a smile is perfect”.
Remember that the audience and judges should be thanking YOU for all the amazing impact you’re creating in the community! When you get on stage, take your three minutes, smile, and look ‘em straight in the eye! Did we mention to smile?! Your audience will be far more likely to empathize if you’re approachable, fun, and relaxed.
- Stay in Control of Your Business Pitch
Mistakes happen – don’t beat yourself up about it. If something goes awry in the pitch, just keep going as if nothing happened. Don’t call any attention to it whatsoever, if possible. If you’re disappointed with how the pitch goes, shake it off immediately and nail that Q&A section. Lauren confirms that “a stellar Q&A makes a ‘meh’ pitch disappear”.
A pro tip about the Q&A? Do not, under any circumstance, get defensive in any way. You will probably get some tough questions from the judges, but you shouldn’t take them personally. They simply want to get to know your venture in a thought-provoking, covering-all-bases kind of way. Consider it a discussion helps you maximize your idea’s impact!
- Self-Deprecation Isn’t Cute
It can be tempting to try to warm up the crowd with a seemingly funny line like “Wow, I haven’t been on a stage since seventh grade drama class!” or “Great, how am I ever gonna follow that amazing pitch?!” but usually those openers do more to disqualify you in your audience’s minds than win them over.
Lauren’s advice is to avoid using self-deprecating jokes or statements. She encourages SEED SPOT entrepreneurs to “say that part in your head” and then start strong with you real opening line to exude confidence and gain respect.
- Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy
Lastly, enjoy it. As stressful as the pitch can be, it represents an exhilarating time in your business’s lifecycle that–believe it or not–you will look back on fondly in the same way you remember those college ramen days or getting lost on that Euro backpacking trip. You’re brave, you’re willing, and you’re making it work! When you allow yourself to have fun, you’ll also appear more confident and be more likable.
Some tips for enjoying your pitch are to be prepared, but not overly rehearsed, and to remember that your venture has value, whether the judges or investors see that in a few on-stage minutes or not. Strut in there like the hot pants you are (in a down-to-earth way, you know?), and the dollars will come raining down from the ceiling before you know it.
In all seriousness, your business pitch can make or break how investors view you and the venture you’ve slaved to bring to life. Put the time and effort into practicing, because you know you’ll worry about forgetting everything on stage (although you definitely won’t). Now’s your time to shine, go get ‘em tiger!
Start your entrepreneurial journey today.
Related articles about SEED SPOT Communities: