One of the Worst Mistakes When Pitching Your Idea

Our semester at Chico State just wrapped up.  As part of my final exam, the students are required to pitch their concepts to a panel of external judges from the community.  We call it “Minnow Tank” because it is set up like the TV series “Shark Tank,” but it isn’t as rough. However, the judging panel scores count for 50% of the students’ grades.  Needless to say, they take these pitches quite seriously.

Under this extreme situation (most have never presented to anyone other than their classmates and professors), the students’ nerves do tend to show, and understandably so.  However, the most fatal mistake students make is repeating themselves.  

By and large, due to the high pressure of the situation, the students tend to write scripts that they memorize.  When they fumble, most students then go back and repeat what they just said so they can remember what comes next.  Not only does this immediately cue the judging panel in on a memorized script, but it also injects a sense of falseness to the pitch.  Here’s an example:

“Hi, my name is John Doe.  I’m the CEO and Founder of Don’t Lose It.  We provide tracking… um… I’m sorry.”

(Awkward silence)

“I’m sorry.  My name is John Doe. I’m the CEO and Founder of Don’t Lose it.  We provide tracking…”

As you can imagine, almost immediately after the pitch restart, we know we are watching a show and not hearing a pitch.

There’s a key difference there.  When we know we are watching a show, cognitively we suspend belief and go with whatever is presented to us.  We do this while watching movies, as an example.

However, in a pitch, it is as real life as it can get.  Suspending belief is the LAST thing the audience wants to do.  Whoever is watching the pitch wants to know that this is for real.  As an observer, we want to get the feeling that we know you, like you, and can trust you.  NOTHING destroys this as much as a repetition of a statement when the original statement is flubbed up.

The audience wants to know that this is real and in the moment.  A repetition of a “line” simply ruins any chance at that.

Another way to handle it may be something like this:

“Hi, my name is John Doe.  I’m the CEO and Founder of Don’t Lose It.  We provide tracking… um… I’m sorry.”

(Awkward silence.  Yes, this happens here, too.)

“I’m sorry, I’m a bit nervous.  However, Don’t Lose It is the newest tracking system that allows…”

When pitching to a potential investor, they want to know that it is the real you up there.  Not some dog and pony show that was scripted to perfection.

If you mess up a pitch, and it will happen, own it.  Whatever you do, don’t go back and repeat yourself.  This simply dehumanizes the pitch.

We all know the old adage: Investors invest in the jockey (the entrepreneur) more often than the horse (the idea).  Be sure you show them you are the real deal and not some pre-scripted infomercial.

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