How to perfect your business pitch: Annabel Karmel

Developing an amazing pitch for your business is vital for success; it's the image that you present to your audience, it's the hook that makes customers and investors want to know more, and it's the enticing blurb on the back of your business story. Best-selling author and children nutrition expert Annabel Karmel explains how to come up with a pitch that will blow everyone away.

"Before you start to panic about a pitch – whether it’s to potential suppliers, investors or the bank manager - remember that no one knows more about your business than you.

Numbers may not be your favourite thing and you might dread public speaking, but stay calm and focus on the commitment you have already put in to realising your business dream. Confidence is contagious, so project that passion and your audience is more likely to engage with your story.

Practice, practice, practice

Preparation is crucial if you want to be pitch perfect, so pull your presentation together and rehearse with someone you admire and respect. Be brave and ask for constructive feedback - knowing where there is room for improvement will benefit you in the long run.

Be mindful of who you are presenting to, what they are looking for and how long you have to talk. Research the person or people you will be meeting. They may do their homework on you before you meet, and it is often helpful to do the same. Pitches won’t always be in a formal setting, so have your two minute elevator pitch ready for chance encounters that could lead to exciting opportunities. An elevator pitch is a clear, concise summary of your company that conveys enough enticing information that people want to know more – once they leave the elevator.

Key point:

Can you convey your story so far and plans for the next chapter easily to someone who doesn’t know you? Cut out the waffle and say it how it is – with a big sprinkling of enthusiasm.

Be yourself

Be honest about your weaknesses and don’t shy away from them. Plug skills gaps with external support and consider signing up to courses that could help you face your demons! Leave yourself enough time to make adjustments and use language you feel comfortable with; there’s no point in using jargon to impress people if you don’t absolutely understand the terms you are using. Above all, be yourself. It is your story and your ideas that people want to hear, so tell it in your own words.

Key point:

Don’t feel the need to be someone else on a pitch day. You are the reason your audience wants to know more, so go in with your head held high.

Tailor your pitch

Pitches to potential investors will focus on growth potential and how to make money so know your numbers. Learn the basic breakdowns and be honest when you run out of answers. Resist the urge to fabricate or over-inflate, as investors will be able to see through you.

Pitches to customers should focus on the problem you can solve for them, and potential partners will want to know what you are building, why it is going to be a success and where they fit in.

Key point:

Don’t assume the pitch will be all about you. Take the time to find out a little about your audience, this gives you the chance to tailor your pitch more specifically and highlight mutually beneficial potential.

Think about presentation

Don’t worry about being word-perfect ahead of pitches. Note the key points you want to get across, and then talk naturally around them. This will stop you getting flustered if you lose your way. If you need to take a moment to regain your composure and get back on track, then do. Pauses can be powerful, so speak slowly and resist the urge to rush. Remember that your audience is interested in what you have to say, and wants you to do well.

That all-important first impression is worth some thought, make sure you look and feel good on the day. You are representing yourself and your business so you set the tone that is appropriate for you and your brand, but bear in mind what your audience is likely to be wearing so that you can align yourself appropriately; you might feel awkward talking to surfers in a suit, and vice versa.

As well as your physical first impression you can make a memorable first impression with an attention-grabbing opening line too. A snappy summary of what you are all about can focus your audience and get them in the right frame of mind to consider your company and its potential in the best mutually beneficial light.

Key point:

You won’t always want or need to use gadgets and gizmos for your pitch, but if you’re relying on technology make sure you know how to use it. Bring back up data and good old-fashioned hand-outs just in case.

Leave and learn: Pitching is an integral part of business growth, but not every pitch will go the way you had hoped. Never fear – it’s all part of the learning curve. Think about what you’d do differently next time and stay in touch with useful contacts that you made on the day.

Mumpreneur (published by Vermillion and sponsored by Direct Line for Business) is out now.  Find out more about Annabel at her website, or connect on Twitter and Facebook.