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Entrepreneurship #5 – The Most Important Part Of Your Pitch

Isn’t Even In Your Pitch Deck or Presentation Style

Recently a young entrepreneur getting ready to pitch their venture for the very first time asked me for the number one piece of advice I could give them about their pitch.

What an easy one to answer!

First, the number one thing is NOT to follow some magic slide deck template or structure. Most templates or pitch deck structures are fairly similar. They all tend to include much of the same information. What investors want to know about your venture isn’t rocket science – or a secret.

Addressing what your audience wants is important.

But that’s not the most important thing!

Second, it’s NOT having a slick, well-rehearsed presentation style. When I meet with student entrepreneurs, they have often been told that they need to start with a attention-getting hook. So they start their presentation like a carnival barker. Ugh. Hooks notwithstanding, being well rehearsed is important. Presentations that are cluttered with “Uh, well” and long [hopefully thoughtful] pauses don’t fill investors with confidence.

Knowing your story and articulating it well is important.

But that’s not the most important thing!

Having something to pitch in the first place IS the most important part of your pitch.

That means the most important part of your pitch takes place literally months before you type the very first character of the very first outline of your very first pitch deck. The real work that you do validating a business concept, empathizing with potential customers and developing a deep understanding of their behavior and needs, creating prototypes, testing prototypes, creating more prototypes, testing again, confirming that all parts of your business model work IRL (not just on your spreadsheet), and more – THAT gives you something to pitch.

Without that work, your pitch deck is a fairy tale. Investors don’t like fairy tales, nor those who tell those tales.

I also recently met with a group who wanted to prepare for “the hard questions” they might be asked when they pitched. They thought that meant learning some generic questions that investors may use to trip them up. But, when they described their two-sided market-like business model I learned that so far, only one side of the market was well-validated and members of the other side were ghosting them. Oops. How do you know that your two-sided market business model will work when only one side wants to participate?

A broken or unvalidated business model is one clear example of NOT having something to pitch. For that team, it would be better to slow down, take some time and validate the other side of the market (or pivot the business concept) than to pitch it as is. No amount of spreadsheet wizardry, pitch deck structure, or presentation style can overcome not having a complete and validated business model – in other words “not having something to pitch.”

We’ve all heard stories of founders who had terrible pitches, but great working business models validated with fast-growing traction – and were funded.

They had something to pitch.”