The Next Women Pitch Evening

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The Next Women is a company that informs and inspires a community of entrepreneurial women around the world. The Next Women also organises pitching, networking and mentoring events. Their first event in London was hosted in the Orrick building which supports gender equality.

I found myself ushered toward a room full of what I can only describe as a “sea of black suits’ – everybody seemed to be very driven and very sure about exactly what they want and need. The atmosphere felt heavy with pressure. The event was for chosen entrepreneurs to pitch to a live panel of entrepreneurs who also invest, as well as a small audience of entrepreneurs and others willing to learn. The goal was to be chosen by the panel in which mentoring for their business was offered.

The pitches by the entrepreneurs were to be a presentation timed to 3 minutes. Keeping the presentation to such a short time is a difficult task for anyone, and unfortunately the majority of the participants were unable to keep to this short time. However, despite the short amount of time they had to make an impact on the investing panel and the audience, many of them presented their own start up businesses extremely well.

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After watching all the Pitches, I felt that some of them were better than others. These are the things which I felt put their Pitches above their competitors:

Eye contact
Despite the fact that the panel and the audience were in different places in the room, I felt that the majority of the pitches held really good eye contact. Eye contact is important because it engages the audience and makes them feel more involved.

Clear presentation slides
You want the audience to be listening to you and occasionally glancing at the screen when you point or refer to something. If it’s full of information, they will be looking at the screen not you. You should be telling them the information. One presentation had their slides so full, one of the audience asked if they could have a copy of the Power Point to look at at a later time. I think that all the important information should be short and sweet, the talking part should support and back up what is on the screen,

Preperation
After every presentation, each person had a 5 minute grilling session in which the Judging panel were able to ask questions. The majority of the presenters were able to give them confident answers. Knowing your stuff is extremely important. Breathing is important to, many of them paused, took a breath and then began to speak. When you stop breathing, you stop thinking.

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Watching the pitches back to back allowed me to compare and contrast each presenters way of pitching. I feel that a few pitches could have been a lot better with a few modifications.

Timing
The majority of the pitches found it difficult to stick to the allotted time per person and had to be ushered from the sidelines. The only way to make sure you keep your time is Practice. I find that a good way of doing this is filming yourself doing your talk. This way you can time your piece as well as seeing what others see. Which is never as bad as you think it is!

Slides
Lets be realistic with the amount of information you want to share and how much you can share. If you have 15 slides for a 3 minute talk, that pushes it to 12 seconds per slide. Rushing through your slides, will make your audience will feel rushed. I try to time it as 20 to 30 seconds per slide.

Assuming makes…
One of the pitches assumed that when the audience said ‘yes they understand’ assumed that the judges also understood. This led to one of the judges asking the presenter to re-explain their point at the end of the presentation. I think a better way to go about it would have been to use the time to quickly explain their point instead of asking for a raise of hands. This way time is used more efficiently.

Overall all the pitches from the entrepreneurs were delivered well. They were confident, calm and knowledgeable. The winning pitch was in fact one of my top 2 presentations, whether this weighted the decision of the investment panel we will never know. But when the idea is great and the presentation is clear and delivered well I think that it’s always a winning combination.

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