The Art of the Pitch – Musings from TechCrunch Disrupt
June 15, 2017
I had the opportunity to attend TechCrunch Disrupt in New York in mid-May. It was a whirlwind of meeting new companies, hanging with media, and getting to watch Pharrell perform with a new startup he’s supporting. It was a successful trip for sure.
When Will and I arrived Monday morning, we didn’t really know what to expect. We had our table, our branded merchandise (our coveted No BS Buttons) and we were armed with stacks of business cards. As soon as the doors opened, we were off: talking about Barokas Communications, educating some on what PR is, but mainly talking about what makes us different. By the end of day one, our ‘pitch’ had evolved. I’ve worked at Barokas for nearly seven years so when people ask me, ‘what do you do?’ I pretty much have it down. But after hearing one of my teammates talk about us, and knowing what questions to anticipate, I came back Tuesday and Wednesday with a new approach.
Barokas Communications has been around for almost two decades so we don’t necessarily fall into the startup category— although if you work with us, you know we are just as nimble and agile one—so it was surprising to me to see my pitch change from day one, to day two. It got me thinking about startups and their pitches. Walking the show floor, I heard a lot of pitches. Some great, some that were just OK and others that were down right dismal. If you’re asked, ‘what does your company do?” and you start with an audible ‘sigh’, I know right then and there it’s not going to end well.
Here are my tips to get any company thinking through a successful pitch:
- Keep it Simple
There’s nothing worse than having to listen to someone talk around themselves trying to figure out how to explain their company, what it does, and its vision. You should take no more than three sentences to tell anyone (a friend, parent or potential investor) what your company does and why it’s important or different.
- Use Examples
No, not the example, ‘it’s the Uber of fillintheblank’. Use a tangible example of how you solved a critical industry problem, or better yet, a customer use case. This can help people who are not familiar with your company, product/service or industry connect the dots.
- Kill Buzzwords
I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words ‘AI’ and ‘Machine Learning’ during the conference. Some companies are doing incredible things to advance these industries, and others were just tacking the monikers to their company description because they are trendy. At the end of the day, the buzzwords might get you noticed, but anyone who has experience in these industries will know as soon as they take a deeper look that you’re full of shit.
I can’t stress this one enough. If my pitch changed in a day of talking to people, yours likely will too. Practice in front of different audiences and have them ask you questions. You might be missing critical information that is easy to weave into your intro. I’d also recommend asking others in your company to pitch you. It’s useful to hear how others within your organization describe your business.
Coming back from New York, I am energized. We made great connections with people and companies doing great work (sadly, Pharrell was not one of them). Most importantly, the next time someone asks me about Barokas Communications or what I do, I know exactly what I will say.