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This article was originally posted on Global Infrastructure Hub.
As a budding social entrepreneur, honing your pitch is critical to securing funding and support. At MIT Solve, we’ve run dozens of global open innovation Challenges and observed hundreds of social impact entrepreneurs pitch their solutions in front of live audiences, funders and investors, and expert judging panels. In doing so, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great pitch. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts we’ve gleaned when it comes to developing and presenting a strong pitch:
- Tell a story: Like a good story, your pitch should have a cohesive narrative. What is the problem you are trying to solve and why? What is your solution? Who is impacted by your solution? What’s next for your venture and why do you need support?
- Keep the focus on your solution, not the problem: Don’t spend too much time explaining the intricacies of the motivation behind your solution. In most cases, the audience you are pitching to will be subject matter experts and already understand the urgency of solving the problem. Focus their attention on why your solution is best positioned to do so.
- Keep the evaluation criteria in mind: If you’re pitching as part of a Challenge like GI Hub’s InfraChallenge powered by MIT Solve, make sure your pitch presentation demonstrates how your solution addresses the evaluation criteria, which the judges use to make their selection. Having clear examples of how your solution meets each criterion will help the judges’ in their evaluation and scoring.
- Prepare to answer questions: Most pitches are followed by Q&A—an important part of the evaluation process. If you know a question will come up, incorporate it into your pitch. If you think a question might be asked, be prepared to answer it clearly and concisely. Remember, time is limited so aim to give short, direct responses to allow for as many questions as possible.
- Talk about your team: Behind every solution is a great team. The audience understands that you are just one person representing a team of individuals. Spend some time explaining why your team is best placed to solve the problem at hand. We recommend ending your pitch with a brief introduction to your team—perhaps a group photo on the last slide—to show the expertise behind your solution.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted in-person meetings around the world, pitch events, including the InfraChallenge Finals, are moving online. Here are a few helpful reminders of how to get camera-ready for your virtual pitch:
- Give your undivided attention: Pick a position and remain there for the duration of time you will be on camera and make sure you are speaking directly to the camera. This can be hard and takes practice, but an easy first step is to avoid looking at your phone and if possible, close the door to the room you are in to limit background noise.
- Lighting and background: Avoid sitting in front of a window. Instead, make sure the window is in front of you. Alternately, a desk lamp aimed at your face will reduce shadows and enhance your overall appearance. Try to ensure that your background is simple and clean so that the view does not distract the audience from you and the content of your pitch.
- Connectivity: Plug your computer or device directly into your network by ethernet cord, if possible. Close all other applications so as not to overwhelm your computer or device. If you can, reduce the number of other devices streaming over your network. Make sure your device is fully charged and plugged in with the latest version of the browser or app you are using installed.
- Audio: Utilise a microphone to enhance the audio quality. If available, utilize headphones to avoid echos. We’ve found that smaller earbuds tend to look more polished.
- What to wear: Avoid solid white shirts without a jacket, and bright colors, especially green, which can pull focus from your face and change your skin tone on camera. Select colors that are near in value to your skin tone to keep the focus on your face. Loose patterns and muted color ties are good options. Try to avoid clothing, jewelry, or hairstyles that would interfere with your microphone.
As a final note, your pitch is a work in progress. Once you deliver your pitch, take stock of what worked and what didn’t, because it can always be improved and refined over time. Try out new approaches and techniques until you find your own perfect pitch. Best of luck!
Register to attend the InfraChallenge Finals here.
Photo: MIT Solve / Joe Jenkins