Pitch Perfect: Entrepreneurs Share Tips to pitching success

By Sarah Self-Walbrick Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Geoffrey Graybeal, who teaches entrepreneurship classes at Texas Tech says that when pitching your product, "If you're not excited about it and can't convey that enthusiasm with your body language and delivery, why should anyone else be excited about investing in you?"

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas

As Tiffany Thomson prepared to pitch her business idea to a roomful of potential investors, she was hopeful. She was trying to gain traction for her hybrid business model that will allow financiers to make money while giving back to their community.

Thomson's Fight the Good Fight Foundation is hoping to expand its for-profit/nonprofit trade show concept, It's Time for Me Day. The events would allow investors and businesses who rent booths at the trade show to earn money, but also give to a charity of their choice. Since it is a unique concept, Thomson has had to work on her pitch to sell the idea.

Investor Adam Brandley thought Thomson's business idea had potential when he first met her in April. But it was not just the concept that sold him.

"The first thing is, where is the heart?" Brandley said.

Passion is one of the main things Brandley said he looks for in entrepreneurs. He said Thomson's obvious dedication and drive to see her business succeed was one of the main reasons he decided to invest in her concept.

Being enthusiastic is one of the main components of successfully pitching your business idea to investors, said Geoffrey Graybeal, Texas Tech assistant professor of public relations.

"This should be fun, so delivery is important and you should be enthusiastic for the opportunity to share your ideas with the world without being over the top like a telemarketer salesman," Graybeal said in an email. "If you're not excited about it and can't convey that enthusiasm with your body language and delivery, why should anyone else be excited about investing in you?"

But successfully pitching an entrepreneurial venture takes a lot more than an effervescent demeanor. "I tell people it's important to focus on both 'the steak,' the meat and substance of the idea, and the 'sizzle,' the delivery," Graybeal said.

Brandley, who is also CEO of upcoming NBC show "America's Real Deal" and the Independent Stock Market, said he is approached by people with good ideas all the time. He said there is a difference between a good idea and a viable one, which is what investors are more interested in.

"They want to know the person is in it for the long term," Brandley said.

Graybeal, who teaches entrepreneurship classes at Texas Tech, suggested a few details entrepreneurs should have figured out before pitching that will make them seem more credible. He said the nine-point business model proposed in the 2010 book "Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers" is a good starting point.

"Another way to think about the pitch and concept is in terms of problems and solutions or pain and gain," Graybeal said. "Paint the picture for an investor of what problem you're trying to solve and what is your solution to that problem."

Once you have the basics of your business figured out, it is time to think about who you want to pitch it to.

Graybeal suggested starting with friends and family, and even venturing into crowdfunding. As an entrepreneur builds capital, they should look for investors who are better fits for their specific product.

Not every pitch presentation is successful, said Brandley. He said it is important to learn from previous pitches and build on lacking areas for the next time. Graybeal agreed and said the entrepreneurial industry is built on losses that can be valued.

There is only one way to refine, and perfect, your pitch, Graybeal said.

"Practice, practice and practice some more," he said.

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