Lessons from a Pitch (It) Competition

[Cross-posted at WeMedia]

I didn’t win the big prize at the We Media PitchIt! competition, but I walked away with something potentially more valuable: honest and constructive feedback that will help to shape the future trajectory of my project. Here is a quick recap and some lessons learned:

Eight minutes is awkward

Each of the eight finalists was given eight minutes to present their project, plus another four-or-so minutes for questions from the judges. Of course, eight minutes is more time than you would need to provide a simple elevator pitch, but not enough time to get into sufficient detail about a platform or plan. If you think that preparing for an eight minute pitch simply requires adjusting your cadence, or offering more/less detail, you are wrong. A specialized deck, and script, for that length of a pitch is required. I
settled on 15 slides and finished with 5 seconds to spare – managing mostly even pacing through my key points and still time for a quick back-and-forth with one of the judges.

Questions have many answers

I prepared for the Q&A portion of the competition by anticipating questions that might be posed by the judges and preparing and practicing some stock answers. Still, when my moment in the hot seat arrived I found myself scrambling. When one of the judges asked how I would integrate an existing platform into my plans, I assumed he wanted me to explain how I would make that work. I had an answer for that, as well as an answer for why my plans were superior to the existing options in the marketplace. I mis-read the tone of his question and provided the wrong answer, thus missing an opportunity to clearly distinguish my plans. I didn’t harm my pitch significantly, but I didn’t do myself any favors either.

Eight minutes is awkward

Each of the eight finalists was given eight minutes to present their project, plus another four-or-so minutes for questions from the judges. Of course, eight minutes is more time than you would need to provide a simple elevator pitch, but not enough time to get into sufficient detail about a platform or plan. If you think that preparing for an eight minute pitch simply requires adjusting your cadence, or offering more/less detail, you are wrong. A specialized deck, and script, for that length of a pitch is required. I
settled on 15 slides and finished with 5 seconds to spare – managing mostly even pacing through my key points and still time for a quick back-and-forth with one of the judges.

Questions have many answers

I prepared for the Q&A portion of the competition by anticipating questions that might be posed by the judges and preparing and practicing some stock answers. Still, when my moment in the hot seat arrived I found myself scrambling. When one of the judges asked how I would integrate an existing platform into my plans, I assumed he wanted me to explain how I would make that work. I had an answer for that, as well as an answer for why my plans were superior to the existing options in the marketplace. I mis-read the tone of his question and provided the wrong answer, thus missing an opportunity to clearly distinguish my plans. I didn’t harm my pitch significantly, but I didn’t do myself any favors either.

[Cross-posted at WeMedia]