How to Dominate in a Pitch Competition

We are living in an age where hundreds of thousands of startups are created every year. With that being said, when it comes to pitching a business idea, it’s crucial that entrepreneurs do their research and understand what’s expected of them.

According to Ilya Pozin of Forbes Magazine, in a pitch competition “competitors receive a few key benefits including exposure, validation, and of course funding. Winners are often rewarded with vital capital.” If an entrepreneur wants to succeed and dominate in a pitch competition, there are some key tips to remember.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
This seems obvious, but polishing your pitch is one of the most important things you need to do to succeed in a competitive event. It doesn’t matter how good your business idea is, if you can’t sell that idea in a clear, concise, and engaging manner, you’re not going to get far. Once a pitch goes off the rails, it’s quite difficult to pivot in a positive direction.

Entertain the Judges
By no means am I encouraging you to do a song-and-dance routine to ‘wow’ the crowd, but no one wants to sit through a boring, unenthusiastic speech. Be human, show your passion for your business, and use proper body language. Prepare what you’re going to say, but don’t make it sound bland and over-rehearsed. If it sounds too scripted, you’ll turn people off to your pitch almost immediately.

Tell a Great Story
Pitches tend to be more flexible and less rigid – this gives you as the presenter an opportunity to tell a great story. Telling a captivating story about what drives your passion and why you started your business can be more compelling than listing off a bunch of facts.

Make Your Presentation Visually Captivating
Watch any episode of Shark Tank and you’ll notice that most of the entrepreneurs who appear on the show give visual and sometimes interactive pitches. Standing in front of a crowd with a simple powerpoint slideshow will only get you so far. Grabbing the judges’ attention and getting them involved with your pitch can be the difference between winning and losing. Let them sample your product – bring them something they can see, touch, smell, etc. Research has shown that visual and interactive presentations can have a positive impact on your audience.

Be Honest
“Don’t massage your numbers, omit critical information that will impact the business or exaggerate the extent of your business partnerships,” said Samir Housri, Co-founder at theMednet. “Be able to explain the decisions you’ve made as a CEO or team leader…a leader is someone that can think for themselves and makes rational decisions with the information they have available to them.”

Be truthful and honest in your presentation. You want to present your business in a positive light, but a good judge will do some homework and will discover if there is any information you may have left out or exaggerated.

Mindy Lee
Advisor/Marketing Coordinator
Washburn University
America’s SBDC