Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pitch Advice Worth Its Weight In Gold

In our Twitterated universe (where people no longer write anything in chunks larger than 140 characters), the business plan has evolved to match. Five years ago, an entrepreneur looking for an angel investor would send an executive summary hoping to pique the angel’s interest enough to garner a request for a full business plan. In the current climate, it seems nobody writes full business plans anymore and investors are more apt to request a “pitch deck” from a hopeful entrepreneur.
With this squarely in mind, we invited renowned Silicon Valley “Demo Coach” Nathan Gold to town last week to work with our clients. Nathan has worked on thousands of pitches and his “students” have won many awards and competitions—and secured capital—on the strength of their pitches. Nathan was introduced to us by Frank Vargas, our colleague with the “view from Mountain View.” Frank met Nathan as he’s been networking his way through Silicon Valley.
The event, which featured presentations and one-on-one coaching sessions, culminated with a pitch competition among participants (think "Dancing With The Stars," without all the glittery dresses). There were card tricks, mental exercises, and plenty of humor—as you might imagine, a guy whose business and reputation is about creating great presentations needs to be a pretty great presenter himself.
Participants learned about the importance of stories, analogies, metaphors, examples, and similes. They also learned how critical it is to grab the attention of the audience in the first 30 seconds, as well as how to use emotion to keep them engaged. They also learned about presentation resources—if you haven’t checked out Prezi (the panning and zooming cloud-based software) you’re probably at least a couple of months out of date. Of course, a couple of months in our tech-centric world can be an eternity.
Interestingly, it sounds like the trend on the West Coast is for even less written content. Nathan explained that many entrepreneurs now send a 60-90 second video instead of an executive summary (still usually followed by the “pitch deck”). I wonder how long it will be before angels impose a 140 character limit of their own on communications…

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