The Art of the Pitch – Part I

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I believe pitching is as much art as it is science. Last week I attended the Tech Coast Angeles fast pitch competition at UCLA, an event I won in 2007. As I was listening to the pitches, I realized that the quality of the presentations were dramatically better than when I was on the stage 5 years earlier. I also attended the Mucker Labs demo day the other day; another great event and another observation about pitches. Pretty much every pitch was at par or above.

Certainly anyone in the startup scene in LA can see that the quality of entrepreneurs in this city has gone up as a whole in the past few years. This is probably one reason the pitch bar has been raised so much. But I think there is another reason. I believe the science of pitching, particularly in large group settings and on stage has become more commoditized.

There has been an explosion of startup events from Startup Weekends to demo days. Pretty much anyone with an idea and a napkin has had an opportunity to get on stage and pitch their vision. Because of this, coaching, feedback and examples of what works and what doesn’t work have become much more prevalent and readily available. There are a clear set of attributes that must be included in the pitch and it’s not hard to find out what those things are.

Just five years ago, the science of pitching was a bit more of a secret that you often had to learn the hard way (by doing bad pitches) or by hunting for a mentor in small pool of experienced people willing to lend a hand.

That leads me to the other side of pitching, the art. I believe the art of pitching is probably more important than the science. The art is what distinguishes you and your company. When you pitch to a large audience, particularly when everyone is delivering well organized, thoughtful, clear and consice pitches, you need something to stand out from the pack. Interestingly this is exactly what was missing in the TCA pitches and even the Mucker ones.

Many of the pitches lacked personality. Nothing really resonated and I was left feeling a bit odd because I knew I had just heard a great pitch, but I really had no idea if the business and team was something I wanted to invest in. The pitches were almost robotic in a way.

It’s just an observation of course; a hypothesis. But it makes sense and it’s rather ironic. For a while there people just sucked at pitching (frankly that’s why I won the TCA competition in 2007 because pretty much all of the other pitches were mediocre to piss poor on the science side. The fact that I delivered a clear and concise message when everyone else was all over the place made it an easy vote.

So I go back to the art. The art is differentiation and being different, in a sea of same, is exactly what people connect with… particular if that sea of same is actually a quality pitches not shit ones.

Man, I wonder sometimes if my posts make any sense or just in my head as I write them?

2 Responses to “The Art of the Pitch – Part I”

  1. […] space, you better have all your dots to I’s and crosses to T’s sorted.  Because like Solly so keenly covered in his last rant, the stakes and saturation are high and the sea of shit is […]

  2. […] think pitching in an intimate setting like a conference room with a handful of people (3-5) is more art than science. It’s largely about reading the participants and adapting in real-time. The best pitches I’ve […]

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