The Three Cs of a Great Startup Pitch

November 3, 2015

4:00 pm

For the past year, I have been helping fellow entrepreneurs perfect their startup pitches. A well-written and well-delivered startup pitch can mean the difference between no one paying attention to your company and everyone paying attention to it. I can dish out all kinds of advice on eye contact, articulation, and hand gestures. I can help you add some “bam!” to your introduction, tweak the details about your revenue streams, and perfect your closing line. But when you take the stage (or the center of the attention at the cocktail party), there is a key to making these other changes count.

You need the Three C’s of Pitching: Calm, Cool, and Collected.

When you start delivering your startup pitch, you need to be calm, cool, and collected. Okay, you don’t actually need to be those things, but you do need to make it appear that you are those things! Your heart might be beating and your palms sweating, but you want to do everything you can to appear calm, cool, and collected.

Why is this so important? Audiences need to feel comfortable in order to focus on the substance. If you get in front of a group and your discomfort, nerves, and doubts are apparent – whether through words, actions, or both – the audience will start to squirm a bit, too. We don’t really want to watch people in uncomfortable situations, especially in person. We either feel nervous and badly for them or we instantly discount and disengage from the presenter. We probably all can remember of a situation where we saw somebody giving a presentation or a pitch and thought, “Make it end! Put him out of his misery!” When the audience feels uncomfortable, their focus on the substance is interrupted by thoughts like this one.

The second reason it’s important to appear calm, cool, and collected is that people gravitate toward those who project confidence. Investors regularly report that they are investing in a person or a team more so even than an idea. No one wants to invest in someone who lacks confidence, poise, and energy. They want to invest in people who are self-assured, passionate, and ready for challenge. You have worked hard to perfect your pitch and don’t want nerves, doubts, or even defensiveness to get the better of you.

Easier said than done? Not really. Try these tips to boost your confidence before taking the stage:

  1. Roll your shoulders back and lift up your chin. These simple movements can help to improve your posture. Having strong, upright posture on stage not only can help you feel more empowered, but also can convey confidence to the audience.
  2. Think of a time you rocked it when giving a presentation, doing an elevator pitch, or chatting up an idea. It could be your sixth-grade science project or your last investor meeting! What’s important is that you remember the feeling you had after you nailed the delivery. Revel in that feeling and remind yourself that you can do it.
  3. Just breathe. Before you open your mouth to grab the audience with your amazing hook, take a deep breath. Take two if you need them! Deep breathing is an instant calming mechanism. In those few seconds when you inhale, the world slows down a bit. As you exhale, feel some relaxation sink into your body.

Now you’re ready to deliver your best startup pitch yet – calm, cool, and collected.

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Kathleen Hale is an experienced entrepreneur and public speaking coach. She is the co-founder and the CEO of Rebel Desk, a company that designs and sells standing and treadmill desks to help people be more active while they work. Kathleen also is the creator of Chair Free Project, a resource to help people move more and use chairs less. She writes, speaks and educates others about the many benefits of pushing your chair aside and living more actively. In addition to spreading the "chair free" message, Kathleen uses her background as a speaker, trial attorney and performer to coach other entrepreneurs on public speaking and pitch presentations.

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