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When does the clock start at a VC Pitch Event?

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, sevenPitch Timer, 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?
And more!

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.

Why not use that first slide to make sure that the audience knows what you do BEFORE YOU EVEN START SPEAKING?

How to Cheat Time on Your VC Pitch – Part 1: The Last Slide

Too many startups stress about how to get their whole story into a five minute pitchVC Pitch Last Slide and they don’t think enough about how to cheat time to get more out of their pitch.

You can cheat just 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 – how long is the last slide up on the screen?

The answer is that in a five minute pitch event, the last slide is usually up for five minutes of Q&A. If this slide is up for five minutes, why do so many people waste this opportunity by having the slide say “Thank You” and their email. Most pitch events provide your email to all attendees, and it’s great that you’re polite with the “thank you”, but it would be much better if you could effectively use that time and that slide to reinforce the key points of your pitch.

A good last slide will reiterate the highlights of your pitch.

You can have the team, product, market, traction, the deal, or whatever you like. I have seen slides broken up into as many as six sections with key elements reinforced in each. Since this slide is up for so long, the twenty five word limit for slides in a pitch event is waived! Go ahead and toot your horn.

The kiss of death for a pitch is when nobody has any questions for the presenter. This means that either people didn’t understand your pitch, or that they understood it well and had absolutely no interest. The last slide will help clarify key points, but most importantly, it will provide key points that people can ask questions about. Sometimes people are shy to ask a question and sound dumb if they didn’t understand something. Sometimes in a big pitch event, people may even get confused and ask a question that doesn’t even pertain to your company, but might have been from one or two pitches prior. Having your key points up on the screen gib vets them the confidence to ask questions.

Of course – the other great solution to silence during Q&A is to have Back Pocket Slides that you can draw on to effectively extend your pitch if nobody asks any questions!

VC Pitch Trick – Back Pocket Slides

Giving a VC pitch to angel investors or VCs can be nerve wracking for many startups, but one technique that can Venture Capital Back Pocket Slideshelp startups regain control and confidence is to have a full suite of Back Pocket Slides.

Back pocket slides are slides after your final slide in your deck that contain details about items you might not have had time to cover in your vc pitch, or that you anticipate might come up during Q&A. Examples of these things might include a competitive matrix, an outline of your IP strategy, or some detail on your go to market strategy and key metrics. These are all optional items in the typical pitch, but could be of interest to investors and are things that often come up during Q&A.

Imagine that you’ve just given your VC pitch, and you’ve got a great final slide that summarizes all your high points, but you still don’t have any questions. The audience is totally dead – what do you do?

A good presenter will wait about 10-12 seconds and if there are no questions, then they’ll say “one thing a lot of people ask me about is … Our competitive matrix. You’ll then shift to your competitive matrix slide and continue presenting with the same cadence and timing you used during your pitch. I.e. If your average slide time is 20-30 seconds, then you should maintain that same cadence with the back pocket slides. After you’re done with the slide, then pause to ask if there are any questions. Wait for up to five or six seconds and then start in with “another thing a lot of people ask about is…..” And start on another slide. I’ve never seen anyone need to use more than two slides in this way before the questions start rolling in.

Of course if there are questions, then you can also use the back pocket slides to reinforce your answers. It will make you appear much more in control if you have anticipated many of the questions and have pre-prepared detailed answers for them.

A good number of back pocket slides is five. Two or three can work, but you’re not as likely to get a hit during Q&A as if you have five. Some people have ten or more slides, but I find that they often have difficulty fumbling through them on stage in order to find them quickly, that this can sometimes backfire.

Finally, one more benefit of the back pocket slides is that if you’re invited to another venue that offers a ten minute pitch format, then you’ve already got your extra slides all put together and they become your primary slides instead of your back pocket slides!