Top Five Tips for Winning a Pitch Contest

By last Friday afternoon I was getting giddy.  I had just spent the past three and a half days, working over July 4th, to review hundreds of business pitches from around the country.

Earlier in the week I was asked to be a judge for a major contest that ended up going viral and the promoters were overwhelmed and had a deadline to meet.  (NOTE:  Since the contest is still underway, I cannot divulge details.)

Doing this work was at times very exciting, as I read about some really cool businesses.  Game-changing in some cases.  And at other times it was frustrating.

Frustrating because the vast majority of proposals lacked clarity and focus.  While some had great ideas, they didn’t have the right pieces in place and did not completely express what I believe they might have been trying to communicate.

Perhaps if they knew how to put a solid Pitch presentation together, they may have done much better.


Top 5 Tips to Hitting a Home Run in a Pitch Contest

  1. Passion— plans that consistently get the highest scores must demonstrate the entrepreneur’s passion about the vision of where they are taking their company.  This is almost always #1 in all contests.  Without it, it is difficult to convince a judge you will be successful.
  2. Impact—how scalable is your concept?  How many lives will you help?  What about the impact on your communities and the environment?  How will you make this happen?  Those plans that show this is thought through will almost always get higher scores.
  3. Team—it’s one thing to have an amazing idea and vision with passion, it’s another to be able to successfully execute it.  In fact, most investors would rather have a “B” idea with an “A” team than an “A” idea with a “B” team.  The “A” team is more likely to figure it out.  For this reason, the business concept is almost always secondary to the team behind it.
  4. Plan—having thought through the key parts of what will make your business successful includes having a) financials, b) team, c) marketing strategy, d) competitive analysis and e) growth strategy.  Addressing these in any contest will usually put you ahead of your competitors.  Especially if they are well thought out.
  5. Concise—less is always more in this case.  The focus on clarity of how you communicate transcends way beyond a bleary-eyed judge looking at hundreds of plans for the nugget of information he/she needs to be able to ascertain how successful the applicant is most likely to be with the awarded funds.  It is also a clear indication of the experience and ability of the entrepreneur to effectively promote their company to customers, investors and other stakeholders.

Doing an effective presentation takes time.  It takes practice and it most definitely takes making mistakes.

If you’ve recently pitched unsuccessfully, just know that is OK.  Chock it off to experience and next time make sure you address these 5 items and you’re more likely to do better.

Meanwhile, soon you’ll learn more about the contest and results of what I was judging.


Action Steps for the Week

Remember:  less is always more.  How can you deliver impact without using a lot of words?

Can you describe what you do in 10 seconds or less?  If not, it is too long.  Elevator pitches used to be 30 seconds or less.  These days, people’s eyes usually glaze over if you go beyond the first 10.

Make sure you describe your business in a way your target audience understands it?  This is usually not the same way as you would speak it.

Of course you build in your passion and demonstrate your conviction as to why you know you’ll be successful.

Once you demonstrate this, then back this up with whom you are to make it happen.  List your team’s credentials.

If you can do all that in 10 seconds, I’m now ready to hear a bit more details on your plan on how you will make that happen.

If this makes sense, then good.

Now go make it happen!