Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Pitch perfect: top tips for our Cisco BIG Awards semi-finalists

July 23, 2015

We were proud to announce the 20 semi-finalists for this year’s Cisco BIG Awards earlier this week.

But the action does not stop there. For the next phase of the competition each semi-finalist will have to submit a video and pitch document to a panel of experts, as part of the road to the final.

Getting your pitch right is crucial to success for any start-up, looking to find new mentors, partners and investors. So to offer a helping hand to anyone facing a big pitch on the horizon, we’ve curated some of the best advice from across the Internet to help get your pitches into fighting shape.

To kick us off, Cisco’s Andy Chew (who is also a BIG Awards mentor), summarises some start-up advice gold on the perfect pitch.

He said: “Getting the right investment and investors for a new business can be an arduous task. Securing investment is no mean feat, and while relationship building undoubtedly has a part to play, the pitching process still holds a lot of sway. Clarity is key to ensuring that the idea is both simple for investors to understand and buy into.

“In my experience you’ve got five minutes to make an impression – a good mentor should act as sounding board for both new business and fund-raising pitches.”

Keep it simple

As a former Dragon, James Caan knows a thing or two when it comes to the pitching process. In this great guide for Mail Online, he highlights three simple but important points:

1) Make eye contact – with everybody concerned

2) Set the tone with a confident opening statement

3) Relate to your audience

Demonstrate trust, and be thought provoking

There’s some sage advice from, Samir Housri, principal at Rho Ventures, in Mashable, who says your mission for a pitch should be to instil trust.

“Don’t massage your numbers, omit critical information that will impact the business or exaggerate the extent of your business partnerships,” says Housri.

“You want to display your business in the best light possible, but a good investor will do diligence and uncover anything you might have strategically left out. If you misrepresent yourself or your product, you hurt your own credibility and this can start the relationship off on the wrong foot.”

Show energy, and tell a story

Among a list of handy dos and don’ts on this project management blog, Chris Sacca, a veteran VC, gives this great nugget of advice for pitching to an investor, which also rings true for other audiences.

DO instil FOMO: ‘fear of missing out.’ Most investors have passed up an opportunity that later went on to be profitable, so make them worry they’ll regret it if they pass you up.

In the same post, there’s another great point from Chance Barnett, CEO of Crowdfunder that is also worth bearing in mind:

DON’T present a series of bullet points. Tell a story instead. Barnett advises all pitches follow this general format: “There is a huge opportunity to do X as a giant business. We’ve cracked the code, and this is how my company is doing it and will dominate this market. Here’s who myself and my team are, and why we’re the only people to back in this space. It’s working, and now we need money for X and Y to grow.”

In need of further inspiration? Check out ‘The 9 Best Startup Pitch Decks of All Time’ – a timely reminder that some of the biggest firms today had to start somewhere.

Do you have any other gems of advice for approaching a pitch? We’d love to hear them, so please feel free to share in the comments section below.

On September 28th, once our judging panel has reviewed all their pitches, our twenty semi-finalists will be whittled down to six finalists who will proceed to the Live Finals on October 22nd.

Three winners will receive more than $250,000 worth of prizes, including cash and access to a bounty of technical, prototyping, investment, and marketing resources. Stay tuned for more updates as the drama unfolds!

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