Five tips for creating the perfect business pitch

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Michael Ruffles, content and social media manager at Virgin Startup, reveals five tips for delivering an awesome business pitch.

Here at Virgin, we hear hundreds of business pitches each week whether they're squeezed into 140 characters on social media, presented to us in a business plan or face to face over a drink at one of our start up events. With that in mind, here are my top tips on delivering a pitch that wins over investors and  makes them desperate to work with you.

Less is always best
 
A good elevator pitch is vital. You need to be able to explain your business and what it does in two sentences, 60 seconds and 140 characters. It needs to be clear, succinct and straight to the point. Doing that will grab attention straight away and means people are more likely to listen to the rest of what you have to say. If an investor, fellow entrepreneur or journalist doesn’t immediately understand what your business is and the problem it solves, then it’s unlikely they’ll dig further.
 
To perfect your elevator pitch, it's important to practice and the best way to do that to by attending networking events. Every time you meet a new person and they ask about your business or business idea, you have the chance to see if you can explain it in a way that they understand.
 
Facts, facts and facts
 
The best way to inspire confidence in your business is through cold-hard facts. Don't wax lyrical about how big your target market is and that even if you attracted just 1% of it, you could make millions in profit. If you're pitching for investment, then a company cash flow with realistic projections for the future and solid proof that your business idea has legs is always wise.
 
 
Know your weaknesses and show them
 
Entrepreneurs tend to be a a jack-of-all-trades, jumping from marketing to product design to developing to accounting. But it’s virtually impossible to be a true expert at all of them. So tell whoever you're pitching to what you're great at, and where you need help. The best entrepreneurs surround themselves with smart people who they trust to help grow their business. If it's investment that you want, showing that you understand your weaknesses will demonstrate that  you're realistic and know what you need to succeed. If it’s at a networking event, then this might help you find a co-founder or first employee.
 
Don't break the bank
 
If you're pitching for investment, don't steam in asking for shedloads of cash. Ask for just enough to make your one product or service work. Show that you want to prove a small part of your business can work before taking on anything bigger. The businesses that are so good the founder can prove the start-up will grow even without investment are the ones that become the most desirable for investors.
 
Be authentic
 
The single most attractive thing about any business is the entrepreneur behind it. That is the person who people want to work with and investors can trust with their cash. Don't pitch your idea wearing a suit and tie if that's not you. People can see through lies very quickly. If you're yourself and show that your personality connects seamlessly with the product or service you're trying to launch, then it makes your pitch 100% better. Just being yourself should help you to be more confident and avoid any nerves.
  
Practice your pitch by entering the #Pitch2Rich competition. If you're shortlisted, you'll get to present your business to Sir Richard Branson for the chance to win £5,000 investment. For more information, please visit www.virginmediapioneers.com, follow @VMPioneers and #Pitch2Rich on Twitter or like Virgin Media Pioneers on Facebook.

About Dan Martin

About Dan Martin

Dan Martin has 10 years experience as a journalist writing about entrepreneurs and the issues that affect them.

After three years working as a researcher for Sky News, he joined BusinessEurope.com as a reporter. This was followed by two years working as news editor for Startups.co.uk during which time Dan also contributed to Growing Business magazine. In 2006, he joined Sift Media as business editor before being promoted to editor of BusinessZone.co.uk. He also has responsibility for UK Business Forums, the UK’s most active online forums for small business entrepreneurs. In addition, Dan founded The Pitch, BusinessZone.co.uk's nationwide competition for small business owners. He host the grand finals in 2009 and 2010 in front of an audience of 300. 

As well as interviewing many entrepreneurs, Dan has written content for leading business organisations such as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business, Investors in People and Business Link for London. Among the publications that have quoted Dan are The Times, Mail On Sunday, Financial Times, Personnel Today and Bristol Evening Post. His articles have also been published by publications including eGov Monitor, Virgin Express in-flight magazine and Personal Success.

Dan regularly speaks at events about small business and social media issues. Among the events he has presented at are the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies' annual conference, Learning Technologies, Publishing Expo and World of Learning. He has also chaired high profile debates featuring senior representatives from Business Link and the Federation of Small Businesses and Dragons' Den judge James Caan.

Dan was named the 10th most influential political blogger on Twitter by the Independent and won the public award for best B2B tweeter at the Golden Twits 2010. He also organised the Bristol Twestival, part of a global Twitter driven charity initiative, in February 2009 and March 2010. Volunteers from 175 cities around the world organised events using the social network. In total, $350,000 was raised for charity: water in 2009 and $500,000 for Concern in 2010. In Bristol, £1,500 and £5,600 was raised.

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