5 Tips For The Perfect Business Plan Pitch – A Judges Perspective
It’s intimidating; standing in front of 4 or 5 (sometimes more) business professionals and beginning to pitch your business plan that you have put countless number of hours into. As thoughts race through your head such as worrying about if you are speaking too fast, or if the judges seem interested in your pitch, you remind yourself that there is no turning back – you must rely on the practice you have put in to deliver a memorable and intriguing presentation.
On May 25, I was asked to be a judge for the Manitoba High School New Venture Championships (MHSNVC). I was more than excited and looked forward to being on the judge’s side of the table instead of the presenter’s side (which I have been so many times). It was amazing (and inspiring) to see many high school students with fully prepared business plans and real, cash generating businesses already started. As the first presentation began and 4 high school students started pitching their business plan to myself and 3 other judges, I immediately thought back to my Grade 12 days and wished I had done something like this at that time. Luckily, during my time at the Asper School of Business I participated in many business presentations, including representing the University at a national competition in New Brunswick and a provincial competition in Manitoba. (APEX National Business Plan Competition & MB New Venture Championship)
With that being said, here are my 5 tips for preparing the perfect business plan pitch (from both a judge’s and presenter’s perspective):
1. Hook the Judges Early by Making A Powerful Statement
It could be said that the most important part of your presentation is the beginning. The best way to get the judges attention (or anyone in the audience) is to make a powerful, startling statement. This type of statement will get anyone’s attention and if you can then back it up with information or research, you will drive home your main point. Use this as a catalyst for your overall message and to get the judges ‘bought in’ right from the start and interested in what else you have to say in your presentation.
2. Establish Your Credibility Right Away
Your audience is most likely to listen to you if you can prove you are credible and the right person to be talking about and pursuing the business venture you are pitching. It’s not necessarily about your career highlights or a lengthy biography, instead tell them why you are the right person to make the business successful. This could be achieved through showing that you have the proper management team in place and an experienced advisory board; establish credibility early on before you present too much information.
3. Ask Thought Provoking or Rhetorical Questions
An effective way to deliver key information is to ask a question first. This will get the judges thinking about the material in the context you want. Think about what the judges will be wondering about when you present your information and phrase your questions so you answer those things for them, while at the same time advancing your message and goals for the presentation.
4. Be Prepared For Difficult Questions
The Q&A part of any business pitch is the most important. Anyone can memorize a speech and deliver a good quality presentation. What makes you stand out from everyone else is how you handle questions in the Q&A period. This is your time to show the judges that you really know what you are talking about and thoroughly understand your business. Plan ahead for tough questions – the ones that may derail your presentation or criticizes any statement you make. Always answer questions in a positive way and ensure you are addressing the question that was asked.
5. Trust Your Preparation
Be confident and trust the hours of preparation and work you have put into building your presentation. Show the judges you are passionate about your business and the material you are presenting. Speak clearly, make eye contact and don’t be afraid to smile!
Congratulations to all the teams who competed in the MHSNVC and the Beyond VR team from St. Paul’s High School who won the competition.