Tips For The Pitch

By Megan Kauffman, School of Arts and Sciences 2011, Administrative Coordinator, Wharton Entrepreneurship

The fourth and final phase of the Wharton Business Plan Competition (BPC) is coming to a close this week with the Venture Finals. During the yearlong competition, students worked with distinguished faculty, alumni, and other members of the entrepreneurial community to bring their business ventures from the ideation stage to a fully developed business plan ready to be presented in front of a panel of judges. Along the way, a series of workshops and one-on-one mentorship helped students fine tune their plans.

One such workshop focused on the students’ skill in presenting their pitches. Glenn Rockefeller, a seasoned lecturer in the Wharton Communications Program, offered invaluable advice to the budding entrepreneurs to prepare them for the Venture Finals. He met with each team individually to give venture-specific feedback. His advice can be helpful to anyone preparing for a presentation. Here are the ten top pieces of advice Glenn offered:

  1. Whenever possible, do tech prep:  In the heat of the moment, presenters often find themselves hand holding lavaliere microphones that should otherwise be clipped to clothing and fumbling with presentation controls.  Practicing presentations with the specific technology to be used during the real pitch will help you look more polished and professional. 
  2. Memorize your slides:  Instead of staring at the presentation screen, memorize your slides to keep your focus on the audience.
  3. Orient yourself to the important people in the room: In the case of the BPC, the judges are the most important members of the audience, but this varies across events. Find out who the key stakeholders are and make sure they get the best view of your presentation.
  4. Emphasize the key points: Use facial expressions, gestures, or voice spiking to bring attention to key words and components in your pitch.
  5. Be as granular as possible in the time allotted: Make sure you provide as much detail as possible and avoid using vague words. When pitching to potential investors, they don’t want to hear you need $100K to spend on ‘other.’
  6. Take advantage of slides that appear for long periods of time: First and last slides often remain on the screen for extended periods of time. Instead of having a slide read ‘Any questions?’ take advantage of the extra viewing time by displaying key takeaways.
  7. Don’t forget to prepare for Q & A: When presenting with a partner, make sure you decide ahead of time how you will divide up questions. This will show your ability to work as a team.
  8. The fewer baton tosses the better: Quickly switching back and forth between multiple presenters makes it difficult for the audience to know where and on whom they should focus their attention. For a brief ten minute pitch, no more than three pass offs should be done.
  9. Look confident and relaxed even when you are not talking: Avoid fidgeting and anxious glances at your partner when not presenting, because you can easily become a distraction both for the audience and pitching partners. Focus your attention on the key stakeholders to pick up clues as to whether or not they understand.
  10. “Do your reps”: The best presentation is a well-practiced one.

Want to see how polished the students’ pitches are now? Join us on Wednesday, April 24th at 1 pm in Jon M Huntsman Hall G06 for the Venture Finals. The Great Eight finalists will pitch for a chance to win over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. For more details about the event and to register, click here.

One comment on “Tips For The Pitch

  1. Megan,

    These are all valuable recommendations, but I believe #10 may be the most important. Your initial practice provides an opportunity to identify flaws or weak spots, and after you have perfected your presentation, the practice will be the difference between simply passable and exceptional.

    From my experience, you should practice exactly as you intend to present. Don’t say “and here is where I plan to talk about ABC or XYZ,” because that isn’t practice.


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