How to pitch your social enterprise’s big idea – and not lose the room (or coffee shop)

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Dragon’s Den (and, let’s be honest, if you’re reading this blog, you probably have!), you’ll have witnessed the best and worst examples of pitching.

There are those who stride in confidently, and command attention from the dragons instantly. They engage them with a fascinating backstory, perform a flawless demonstration of their idea and answer every finance-related question that follows without hesitation.

Then, there are the poor entrepreneurs who shuffle into the room, stumble over their opening gambit, break their product while demonstrating it and collapse into a sweaty, shaking heap when prodded on year three’s turnover projection.

Unless you happen to number among the former (don’t worry – few of us do), you’ll doubtless have sympathised with the contestants who fell at every hurdle.

Pitching is hard, and if you’re a social entrepreneur, telling a room full of people why they should either invest in, purchase or join whatever it is you’re working on is a skill you have to perfect.

Here’s how you can do just that:

1. Pick the right location

You won’t always get to choose this, but if you have the opportunity to pick a location at which to pitch your big idea, do so strategically.

This doesn’t mean you need to go all-out and book the biggest conference room you can afford, either. It might be that your favourite small independent coffee shop is discreet enough to make your pitch something of an understated beauty.

Equally, you might want a big conference room, but whatever you do, don’t settle for a venue that is either too noisy, distracting or entirely at odds with your social enterprise’s goals.

2. The secret to great pitching is… timing

The pitches that take place unexpectedly are often among the most successful, but timing is everything.

If you spot the opportunity to unleash your big plan on someone, make sure they appear to be optimally engaged. If they’re rushing to catch a train, have their head buried in a smartphone or happen to be holding a screaming baby – wait for the next opportunity.

3. Rehearse

You know that age-old idea of rehearsing your pitch either in front of a mirror or family member?

Well, as daft as it might seem in the modern age, it’s still absolutely relevant and a brilliant way to ready oneself for the most important business meetings entrepreneurs face. There’s not an app or website on the planet that will help you in quite the same way.

Your pitch might not be particularly good, but it could be a barnstormer. Unfortunately, you won’t know which one is true until you test it out. Don’t make the pitch itself the rehearsal!

4. Nail your 10-second pitch

“But the meeting is scheduled for an hour,” you say. And that might be the case, but you need to consolidate the entire pitch into a ten-second soundbite, too.

That’ll be your opening gambit – the first few words that come out of your mouth after the pleasantries have been exchanged.

Your social enterprise means the world to you – it’s the business equivalent of a baby, and something that precious should easily be summed up in just a few words.

Write them down – and stick to them.

5. Get ready to embrace feedback

Not everyone will like your pitch, no matter how good you believe it to be or how meticulous your preparation. For that reason, you need to be ready for feedback (good and bad).

Consider the common objections you might encounter and decide how to handle them. Also bear in mind that some people might attempt to throw you off course with left-field questions, so be armed with a standard ‘heckler’ throw back which will prove to them that you mean business but understand how important honesty is if you don’t know the answer.

Wrapping up

Follow our tips above, and your next social enterprise pitch should end with you feeling elated and in command of a room that wants to help your big idea succeed.

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