As someone who has been to tons of hackathons and seen hundreds of pitches, I’ve been able to observe what works and what doesn’t. While a hackathon can be an extreme example, the rules below can be used for an investor pitch, school project presentation, or basically any public speaking setting.
Yes, it can be scary, but once you figure out your process public speaking can also be fun!
We share these tips during a pitch workshop at every hackathon AngelHack hosts and dedicate an entire week during our pre-accelerator program before our Global Demo Day, and noticed a drastic improvement, so let’s dive in!
Rule #1: Be Passionate
This is your chance to showcase your hard work. Get excited! Your body language and your tone of voice need to communicate enthusiasm and confidence. Imagine somebody who doesn’t understand a single word of English is in the room with you, watching you speak. That person should get the impression you believe in what you are saying, know what you are talking about and are enjoying talking about it.
Rule #2: You’re Nervous? Good.
When people have told you it’s not good to be nervous they’re wrong. Think of it this way, getting nervous is just your body preparing you to do something amazing, sending more oxygen to your brain, more energy throughout your body, this is a chance to channel all of that into contagious energy. You just need to figure out the best way for you to channel that energy. Sitting in silence? Blasting your pump up song? Figure it out.
There is a whole Ted Talk on this.
Rule #3: Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute
A hackathon is a very fast-paced environment, and typically the last thing the teams are worried about is the pitch and demo. It’s when you see the one lone teammate out in the hallway pacing back and forth talking to himself that you know you’re about to see something special.
If you put in all this work into your product and demo, how do you expect to make all that work worth it if you don’t prepare to talk about it? Simple concept, but often ignored.
Rule #4: Anticipate Questions
Hackathon pitches are usually restricted to 2-5 minutes. That’s incredibly fast and limiting, but also gives you a playing field to work in. When preparing your talking points you should always anticipate the types of questions you might be asked, and try and insert the answers naturally.
Rule #5: Don’t Memorize, Use Guideposts
Unless you have a photographic memory, memorizing a a full speech is a waste of time. The risk of forgetting a word and getting flustered is just too damn high. But your mind is a brilliant thing, it knows how to get from A to B to C. So just write out the outline and key points, and know what needs to be conveyed in each section. It’s much more natural.
Rule #6: Do Two Things At Once
If what’s happening on the screen behind you is self explanatory, use that time to talk about something else.
If you’re presenting your new app and how it works, do NOT explain basic things like the login screen, instead talk through features unique and critical to your product.
Rule 7: Empathy
Want to know a secret to success in business? Empathy. Understanding all perspectives. You understand exactly what your customer wants, what your future partners want, your investors want, and align with ALL of those. Map out all users involvement so you can truly picture it.
Rule 8: Practice, Practice, Practice
You’ve heard the phrase “practice makes perfect,” right? Well your soccer coach, your teacher, your mom; they were all right.
Rule 9: Believe In Yourself
If you’ve considered and put into practice all the rules above, it now comes down to simply one thing. Believing in yourself and your abilities. I’m sure Steve Jobs was nervous before presenting the first iPhone to the world, but he believed in the product, and now we’re at iPhone X.