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Pitch Perfect - Top Tips to Ace Your Business Pitch

Jan 22, 2017   |   Cat Ryoo

With less than a week left until the QEC 2017’s final weekend in Toronto, preparations are well underway. Of course, our mandate also includes preparing and empowering you, the competitors. This year, the top 15 competitors represent a diverse spectrum of industries, ranging from healthcare to telecommunications. While there is no formulaic recipe for success at the QEC, we’re here to share some useful advice about how you can make an impactful and memorable pitch, and get closer to clinching the $50,000 top prize.

1) Tell a story

After watching several teams pitch their business plans, what the judges will likely remember the most once you’ve left the room is the pathos behind your startup. Use your product or service to tell a compelling story – what is the human truth that drives your business? Along with this, don’t be afraid to show the judges your passion and assert a unique voice. After all, you have molded your business from Day One to embody the values which you hold dear and the problems you wish to solve. The genuine passion that all entrepreneurs share is infectious, and can certainly enhance the empathy the judges feel when they consider your product or service.

2) Don’t neglect your financials

Great ideas lay the foundation of any successful business, but with $75,000 in prize money at stake, the QEC’s judges are looking to ensure that teams have a good grasp of the grittier details. The company’s financials and revenue model are, at times, neglected in favour of flashier elements of the pitch. However, being able to communicate integral quantitative details bolsters the credibility of your business to the judges. Do you have sufficient cash reserves to execute your plan? Is it realistic to claim your company’s revenues will grow from $100,000 to $30 million in two years?   For the QEC 2016’s second place winners, SwineTech, the importance of solid financial analysis became clear after the preliminary round of pitches. “After the first round of presentations, the judges told us to dive a lot more into financials. That was something we had always just glossed over. I would say that if someone truly wants to win and put themselves ahead of everyone else, you need to have a really good and concise financial part in the presentation,” commented co-founder Matthew Rooda.

3) Prepare persuasive answers to tough questions

The panel of judges in the preliminary and final rounds of pitches during the weekend is composed of seasoned entrepreneurs and industry leaders. As such, expect to face a few tough questions during the Q&A period. Identifying the weaker points of your pitch and anticipating potential questions can help you remain composed when probed for answers. Even if you are confronted with a curveball, the idea is to demonstrate that you are comfortable with the moving parts of your business to formulate a persuasive answer.   Remember that the judges are genuinely interested in getting to know your business, so you really want to use their feedback when approaching the final round of pitches. For Suncayr, last year’s first-place winner, crafting an entirely new pitch, given the feedback from the first-round judges, paid off. “These judges are much smarter and more knowledgeable than us, so it made sense to use their feedback when we could,” said co-founder Derek Jouppi. In contrast, third-place team Vitameter opted to use the same pitch for both rounds, and saw success. Ultimately, the judges’ feedback should be applied within context.

4) Sometimes, less is more

Everyone has experienced verbose presentations that seem never-ending. Knowing how to present the vital details of your business plan is essential to attracting and retaining the judges’ attention. If they can’t grasp your concept easily, it may lead them to assume your customers won’t either. Jouppi recommends “refin[ing] your deck. Refine every stat and really live your business.”   While we hope these tips help you define and refine your presentation style, or encourage you to prepare thoroughly, no winning team at the QEC has ever been a reproduction of another. Best of luck, and we look forward to meeting you on Thursday!

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