Too many startups stress about how to get their whole story into a five minute pitch and they don’t think enough about how to cheat time a bit to get the most out of the five minutes (or two, seven, ten, twelve, fifteen or whatever you’re given). This is the first to two blogs on the topic of how to cheat time — the first has to do do with the first slide and the second has to do with the last slide.
Ask yourself this – “When does the clock start at a pitch event?”
The answer is that it usually starts the moment you begin speaking. So you’re in control of when the clock starts. Now – what happens before you speak? The answer is that usually you are introduced by the MC or moderator and the first slide of your deck is queued up on the screen as you’re approaching the stage.
Here’s where many companies have a lost opportunity. Their first slide has mostly useless information that is already known to the audience. Why have a slide that has your company name, the date, the name of the event, the city, etc? Why not make sure, since your slide will be up on the screen for up to sixty seconds before you start talking, that the slide is doing a lot of work for you.
Your opening slide can:
Tell the audience about what market you’re in.
What is your product/service.
What is your primary value proposition?
At the very least, you should compose a tag line below your company name that is a tweet or less (140 characters) that describes your company, industry, and key differentiators.
If you do this, you’ll have the audience queued up and ready to hear a pitch for what you do.
I call this process “building a box”. When you do this, you’re developing a conceptual framework into which everything you say can be placed in context. People who don’t build a box early on in their pitch leave us guessing and ultimately uninterested in the pitch. This is the way the human brain works – we have a hard time processing information that is out of context – yet inexplicably, over half of VC pitches leave out the context until we’re half way through the pitch or more!
Don’t keep the audience guessing until half of the way through your pitch about what you do.
If the audience doesn’t get what you do within the first thirty seconds of your pitch – you’re dead.