Here’s what to do when your pitch goes wrong

For many startups and budding entrepreneurs, the pitch can be both a stressful and rewarding experience.

So you spend your time building your slide pack. You investigate, research, and make sure all reported numbers are just right. And on the day of the pitch, it all goes pear-shaped.

What do you do?

Never fear! There is always a something you can do to make sure the odds are in your favor when things go wrong on the day of your pitch.

Before the pitch

Prep like you’ve never prepped before. Get ready to face the worst case scenario like a boss!

  1. Do not over funky-fy your slide pack (no animation/ music). You can add the all flavor you want during your delivery instead.
  2. Stick to 10 slides or less, depending on the time allocated for your pitch.
  3. Keep a copy of your slide pack in the cloud and a USB.
  4. Keep a PDF version of the slide pack as well.
  5. Have two to three printed copies of the presentation with you (to pull out in case of emergency).
  6. Practice your presentation with the slides.
  7. Now practice your presentation without the slides. Remember the key points you make that require visual aids. For example, if you have a prediction of the market uptake or illustrations to emphasize your numbers against the competition, you will need to pull these out later.
  8. Practice your pitch with and without a mic. Trust me on this.
    With a mic — you want to get comfortable with the sound of your voice with a mic.
    Without a mic — you want to get comfortable speaking in front of an audience where you might have to project your voice more in case your mic stops working.
  9. Know your bottom line: What is your key message? Are you a differentiator? What is it that you came here to do? Get funded, get business guidance, get noticed, get advice?

During the pitch

Your slides stop working halfway

If your slides stop working during the pitch,  then you reap the benefits of your practice sessions without your slide deck and can pull off a confident and comfortable delivery nonetheless.

You can hand out printouts of specific slides in the unlikely scenario that you are delivering your pitch without the slide deck. These should only be used to emphasize or justify a particular claim.

Note: Although you will have printed copies of your slide deck on hand, you don’t want to hand them out to your audience/ panel unless necessary. You want to keep their attention to you and what you are about to say. Giving them a printed copy risks your audience getting distracted with flicking through your deck and reading ahead.

You can’t get your slides to work at all

If your slide pack doesn’t work from the start and you are already standing on the stage, don’t fight the situation or keep fiddling with your laptop while making the audience/panel wait. Keeping to your time shows that you value yours and other people’s time. Be mindful, move on and just give the dang pitch. Screw the slide deck if it doesn’t work on the day.

Let’s put it in perspective here

Your pitch is about your/ your team’s story and the journey you had so far. It isn’t about the slide pack.

So once you are on stage, it’s game on baby! Every second you are standing there – whether you are speaking or not – you are already telling them about you and your business.

Turn on your charm, crack a little joke, and smile. Breathe and let the show begin.

Your mic stops working

I’ve seen this many times in pitches delivered with a lapel or wireless mic. All is going well, and somehow the mic dies. The speaker is oblivious to the fact that the mic isn’t working, so she/he keeps talking. As a result, the audience yells, “we can’t hear you!”

Then the speaker loses their train of thought and flow.

Here’s the thing, at worst case scenario you have to prepare for the situation where you will speak without a mic. This is ok in a room that holds 5–10 people, but in a room with more than ten people, how can you get ready for this?

The answer is reading your audience. If you are speaking without a mic because one isn’t available, then look to the back of the of the room. Are they giving you signs that they can’t hear you?

 Prepare like a pro to deliver like a pro.

Signs such as squinting, leaning forward, or shaking their head as you speak.

If you cannot gauge whether your volume is enough, ask them. Don’t be afraid to interact with the audience; they will tell you if they can’t hear you. But then you need to bring your game on and make an effort to speak louder and clearer.

I once saw a very proficient public speaker deliver an inspirational speech. His mic stopped working halfway through his speech. Noticing this has happened, he continued to speak, but upped his volume, as if nothing had happened at all.

The show kept going.

When you’re delivering a pitch for your startup, whether or not you’re a seasoned public speaker or not, your show must go on.

Prepare like a pro to deliver like a pro.

You forget your line/ lose your train of thought

The most common reason why people panic when their slide decks stop working is that people rely on their slides as a mental cue to remember what they are about to say next.

Delivering a pitch isn’t a memory exercise. If you get to a point where you lose your train of thought, it is totally normal to go over your notes or your little cheat sheet.

Before the pitch, write down the points you want to talk about and divide them into sections of your talk. Try not to memorize it word for word, but rather remember the points you want to hit.

By removing the expectation that you don’t need to memorize your pitch word for word, it then removes the stress you put on yourself that your delivery should be exactly how you memorized it.

After the pitch

You get asked a question you don’t have an answer to

One of the things that can be quite scary is after delivering the pitch, you get asked different types of questions: legal, numbers, projections, potential problems.

Your mindset should be at “I have done the best I can, I have room to learn and improve.”

So when you get asked a question about something you don’t know, you can take this as room to improve and answer in all honesty that you haven’t looked into that area and move on.

You can answer questions by following the PREP formula.

Point — Reason — Example — Point.

For example:
No, we have not investigated the Australian copyright laws (point). Our business model is very similar to a popular international app which currently has a strong presence in Australia. (reason) For example, they showcase a person’s photo to the public which is the same functionality as our app. (example) I imagine that we can investigate what they have done, but it is worthy to investigate the copyright laws (point). I appreciate the question and will look into it.

Someone asks you multiple questions

Organise your thoughts. Recap the questions.

Answer the questions one by one following the PREP formula.

Have you encountered glitches while pitching? How did you handle it? Would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Writer: Juliet Lara