For those looking to start their own business, the initial pitch can be everything. It’s easy to feel like your entire life is on the line when you’re presenting a business model or trying to secure funding from a potential investor—and let’s face it, sometimes it is. But even if you’re no Don Draper, there are plenty of steps you can take towards mastering the art of the pitch. Here are 10 to remember.

1. Practice Beforehand

This is arguably the most important step in ensuring a great presentation, and yet so many people forget about it. Rehearsing your presentation to a friend, partner, or even yourself in the mirror can help you catch mistakes, solidify your message, and eliminate any unnecessary padding.

2. Start Strong

Bugs Bunny at the start of a raceEasier said than done, we know. But your opening few slides, depending on how much they wow your audience, can make or break a presentation. No one likes an overlong introduction, so try to make it so that your core message is already clear within the first few minutes of your presentation. Don’t be afraid to use humor or multimedia elements to draw your audience in.

3. Keep it Simple

If there’s one thing investors are tired of, it’s spreadsheets. If you find your presentation is mostly made up of complicated graphs, statistics, and revenue models, it’s probably a good idea to simplify. After all, if investors want that information, they can ask you for it—your pitch is all about explaining your idea in a simple and straightforward way.

4. Tell a Story

Neil Patrick Harris saying
What do TED Talks, Bob Dylan songs and good pitches all have in common? They tell stories. Adding a human element to your presentation is a great way to show off just how unique your business is, and how committed you are to its success. Frame your presentation around how your product or service will affect the life of your ideal customer, or talk about how you came up with the idea in the first place.

5. Be Specific

Chances are you aren’t the first person to pitch an idea to your audience. Heck, you might not even be the first person to pitch an idea that day. Potential investors should come away from your presentation knowing exactly what your business is, who your target audience is, and most importantly, why they should choose you over everyone else.

6. Act Natural

People dancing awkwardly at a dinner party
There’s a common misconception that all business presentations have to be very formal affairs. While it definitely helps to take your presentation seriously, the best and most effective presenters are able to be both professional and casual. If you’re able to make your audience feel at ease, it’ll be easier to communicate with them.

7. Follow the 10-20-30 Rule

Pioneered by Silicon Valley superstar Guy Kawasaki, the 10-20-30 rule should be your new mantra. It states that all great PowerPoints have roughly 10 slides, are finished in under 20 minutes, and only use text larger than 30-point font. This rule of thumb is a great way to ensure your presentation is accessible, digestible, and focused.

8. Use Visual Aids

Person reaching out at 3D movie
There’s a word for presentations that only use text, and that word is boring. Investors don’t just want to hear and read about your business—they want to see it, too. Including images and videos is a fantastic way to illustrate what makes your business, and you, special.

9. Improvise

Wait, you’re saying. Didn’t you just tell me to practice? Well, yes. But there is such a thing as too much practice, and your audience will be able to tell if you’re just repeating lines by memory. Staying loose and thinking on your feet will help you impress investors of all stripes.

10. Breathe

Office worker hyperventilating and fanning himself
For all us introverts, worrywarts, and people who get nervous speaking in public, taking deep breaths is a great way to calm yourself down and focus. Doctors recommend breathing in for four seconds, holding for seven, and releasing for eight to calm yourself down. Remembering the 4-7-8 rule (not to be confused with the 10-20-30 rule) can be a lifesaver in stressful situations, and business pitches are no different.

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