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Tyler Crowley (@steepdecline), is the co-host of This Week in Startups and works one on one with early-stage companies before they pitch at the LAUNCH conference.

He was in Sydney for a few days and ran two pitch clinics with a lucky few startups.

I spent most of last year pitching my startup to some of the largest VC and angel groups in the country, had a full page article in the BRW (which we were pretty chuffed about!) and in the end, we were unsuccessful. I was eager to learn from the master and see where we went wrong…I wasn’t disappointed!

The most important 15 seconds of your life.

You have only 15-20 seconds (depending on when they last ate) to hook the audience and get them interested in hearing the rest of your pitch. No pressure! Why 15-20 seconds? Because it’s social etiquette. Social etiquette says that they should acknowledge you for that very brief period of time. After that, you’re competing with Facebook, emails and every other distraction on their open laptop. If you start your pitch with a video there’s no longer any obligation for social etiquette – you can lose them before you’ve even opened your mouth. So, never start with a video!


How do you hook them in 15 seconds?

Our brains are wired to remember stories, not powerpoints. Most ideas that are pitched won’t relate to everyone in the audience. So steer away from using language like “You will…”, “You can…”.  People can’t relate to it and they switch off.

Instead, create a story and introduce a character (i.e. This is Johnny…). This character should be the most likely person to use your product. You need to immediately create drama when you introduce the problem. Remember you only have 15 seconds to hook the audience. You’re aim is to evoke an emotional connection, so that the audience feels Johnny’s pain. It’s at that point, they’re along for the ride. They want to know what happens to Johnny!

(If you introduce a second character, make them the opposite sex).

Introducing your product – the hero!

After you’ve introduced Johnny and explained the problem that poor Johnny is facing on a daily basis, you introduce your product…the hero!  It’s at this point that you should do a demo of your product. You can either do this pre-recorded and you speak to it, or if you’re confident enough, you can do a live demo.

When you do the demo, you need to be very clear in your own mind about what you want the audience to remember. Introduce it by saying: “Johnny goes to [insert your company name] and the first thing he notices is…”. This is where you highlight the things you want the audience to remember. Every startup should have at least one thing they’re trying to differentiate on…”cheaper, faster, better” and important features such as “automatically, seamlessly, instantly” etc. Work out which ones you’re running with and constantly emphasize it.

You’re language is so important. Don’t use words like “can, will, could”, use past tense language such as, “did, done, was” etc. Don’t say “we”, say your brand name. You want people to remember it, so keep saying it!

Some VC’s and angels will hear multiple pitches a day and if you’re pitching at an event, the audience will hear pitch after pitch all at once. Over time, their recollection of your pitch decreases more and more. That’s why you must get your pitch deck into the emotional domain and out of the analytical. No-one will remember all the facts and figures you throw at them, so choose a few key things you want them to remember and hammer it home.

Finally, make sure you keep the text on your slides as minimal as possible. You want them in scan mode, not read mode. When you read, you’re automatically in the analytical domain.

Make sure you watch some of the Launch Conference pitches and take notes:

Good luck!

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