Pitching for Startup Weekend
by Guest Dr. Thomas Nelson
Director of Student Competition for the Melton Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
University of South Alabama
The purpose of the pitch at startup weekend is to recruit people to your team. With that in mind, one thing you can do is begin the recruiting process the second you walk in the door, or even before. Talk to people during the meet and greet. Share ideas. Try to get people excited about your idea, or if you find an idea you’re more excited about than your own, plan to join their team.
Having a fantastic Startup Weekend is not all about getting your idea selected. It’s about learning. It’s about creating something new, whether or not the original idea was yours. This is a low risk learning experience, that just might turn into a new career or side hustle. But the things you learn there will be applicable to other businesses and projects for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the best presentation you can though, so here are some thoughts.
- You get 60 seconds. They WILL cut you off.
- This is a popularity contest.
- Be likable – smile
- Be friendly – SMILE
- Be passionate – If you have trouble being passionate, be excited. If you’re nervous, that’s good. Just go somewhere quiet (it helps if you find a mirror) jump up, land on the balls of your feet and say “boy I’m excited, boy I’m excited, BOY I’M EXCITED!
- Engage other people going to startup weekend in advance. Don’t ask them to vote for you, but when you find people that will be there let them know you’re going to be there too and you’re excited about sharing ideas and working on something together.
- Only use humor if you’re self-confident enough to pull it off. If it’s forced you’ll sound like a dork.
- This is also a performance.
- Move. If something is huge, make big arm motions. If it’s frustrating, make a frustrated face and shake your fist. If something makes you happy, SMILE!
- Modulate your voice. Don’t just talk. If there is a reason to be quiet or loud, be quiet or loud.
- Consider your tone of voice in addition to volume and physical movement.
- Here’s a sample pitch formula
- Introduction – 10 seconds – This should introduce you, your idea, and contain a title. The title is super important, there will be voting later and they can’t vote for you if they don’t remember who you are. You may want to invite people to join you here.
- Problem – 15-20 seconds – What problem are you trying to solve and for whom? Be as specific as you can in the time allotted.
- Vision – 20 seconds – This is what the world looks like for the customer with the problem solved. What makes your solution different or better than others?
- Requirements – 10 seconds – What do you need in terms of people/knowledge/skills/abilities in order to get this done in the next 54 hours? What technology do you need?
- If you have time, and you probably shouldn’t, re-invite people to join your team, and restate the name of the idea.
- Practice before the event. You will suck. Then you will get better. Then you will get bored. Then you will get good.
- A good idea is to write it down and memorize it.
- When writing and practicing your elevator pitch will change. This is good. You’ll be putting what you’re saying into your natural voice and improving your presentation.
- My personal preference is no notes. Notes detract from your passion. It’s really hard to passionately read a note card.
Learn more about Dr. Nelson at drthomasnelson.com.