Getting the guts to present your product to a handful of investors – and celebrity investors at that – is hard. Add to the mix the prospect of you and your big idea being featured on ABC’s pitch competition series Shark Tank, and the butterflies in your stomach are bound to multiply.
This Thursday, dozens of people in the Boston area will take the mic to present their innovations in hopes of getting on said series, with the chance to win some serious dough. Massachusetts companies have, after all, gotten Shark Tank’s investors to bite in past seasons. Take Faneuil Hall cupcakery Wicked Good Cupcakes, for example. The scrumptious baked goods maker wound up with a royalty deal in 2013 with Back Bay-dwelling millionaire Kevin O’Leary of O’Leary Ventures.
Though others have prevailed in the past, the pitch process is still an intimidating and grueling one. Fortunately, there’s no better person to get tips on said process than Joanne Domeniconi, the cofounder and Chief Discovery Office at Somerville online maker marketplace The Grommet. In addition to her own time spent in front of VCs and angels vying for capital, Domeniconi witnesses a slew of over 200 product pitches from around the world every week. With popular products like Soda Stream appearing on The Grommet, it’s clear that Domeniconi has an eye and ear for the “distinctive, disruptive and defensible.”
‘You have to have soundbites.’
In an increasingly tweetable world dominated by quick hits and social media, you need to have catchy yet clear soundbites. “I think what’s really hard for entrepreneurs is to take the big points and focus on them. It’s so hard to separate yourself sometimes, you want to explain more and more, but that is a road to failure in [the listeners’] minds,” said Domeniconi. Plus, delving to deep into details is especially tough if you’re on a time limit.
Practice pitching to perfect strangers.
Well, people who are at least strangers to your idea. Try presenting your product or company to a “person on the street or a perfect stranger, someone who has no knowledge of your idea,” shared Domeniconi. “When we listen to people and we have knowledge of the product or idea we can fill in the gaps ourselves.” Keep things simple.
Do your homework.
We live in this glorious era of social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. It’s easy to do some searches on the people you’re going to meet and find out more info about what they are all about – beyond the descriptions on their company page. Domeniconi recommends connecting in a meaningful way, whether its contributing a comment on his or her blog post or tweet. “The more you know about them the more successful you’ll look,” shared Domeniconi.
They’re just people.
… and people make mistakes. “I’m guilty of every mistake in the world myself,” Domeniconi admitted. When something goes amiss, acknowledge the mistake and get back on track, fast. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them you’ll get back to them to avoid the awkward ramblings of an inconclusive answer. “Talking around the question and not directly answering it will let your nervousness will be known,” warned Domeniconi.
So, are you with me?
This is one of the most important questions to ask your audience during a pitch. If you find that nerves are getting the best you, take a moment to check in with your listeners. One of the biggest mistakes The Grommet cofounder said she was guilty of making was forgetting to breathe. “In the past, sometimes I got so excited about what I was saying that I realized I haven’t given myself time to breathe,” said Domeniconi, laughing. To calibrate and reconnect with your audience, just ask, “Are you with me?”