Pitching 101 – Don’t pitch; tell a story

MEST, Tuesday October 9th 2018

On Friday, 28 September, the MEST Incubator Accra organized an all-day workshop on how to create the perfect pitch, featuring our in-house experts.

Crafting the perfect pitch deck

The day started with Ashwin Ravichandran, MEST Incubator Accra General Manager, who offered insights on how to create a good slide deck. He explained that ideally, a pitch deck tells an appealing story, in which the consumer is the hero, and empathizes with the vision of the company. A good slide deck should enhance the experience of the product journey, be creative and beautiful, and not distract.

Next, Ashwin explored other factors to keep in mind while creating a slide deck; it should offer content that ensures the bigger picture is clear. Elements like colour scheme, font-type and font-size should be consistent. There should be a balance between text and whitespace. The message should be enhanced through images, transitions, charts and graphs, animations and videos. However, one should be careful that these do not distract the audience from the core message.

Expressing your personal brand

The afternoon session kicked off with Alfred Adusah, CEO of MEST portfolio company Buildpals, who spoke about how to pitch yourself. As an entrepreneur, you pitch yourself whenever you meet someone. Alfred advised that when developing a pitch about yourself, it is important to reflect on your past experiences, core values and beliefs, and your vision on the future. The latter is often hard to uncover and requires a lot of time and introspection. What were you born to do? How do you want to change the future? Once you have figured this out, you have to tailor your message to your audience: be short and concise, and select what is most relevant to them. And most importantly: believe in yourself! There is no other best version of you.

The pitch itself

Next up was Head of Partnerships and Strategy for Alt Technologies, Heather Mavunga, who delved into how to pitch your brand. Like Alfred, she stressed that before representing a brand, it is really important to get to know yourself and to get yourself together first. You have to believe in yourself, what you are selling, and in your team, and need know what kind of speaker you are. Are you great with numbers? Do you have a lot of charisma? Use these natural strengths to take the person you are pitching to on a story with you.

And at the same time, Heather told us, you need to be your own toughest critic: why is this an important issue to solve? What does the customer think? Only after having answered those questions, you can move on to solution and implementation. You can have the best slide deck in the world, but if you don’t have your story and value proposition together it is not going to sell. So before pitching, you really need to have done your research, and be able to explain why the problems you mention are important to solve.

Next to that, Heather stressed that the key to a good pitch is lots and lots of practice, preferably in front of someone you trust and who will give you honest feedback. Do not only focus on whether your speech is consistent, and knowing your slides really well, but also pay attention to your body language. Your body is always speaking, even when you are not. So be confident, even if you make a mistake. If people notice you are not confident it will them that there is something lacking, either in your team, with your idea or something else. So, 90% of pitching is actually done before you step in front of an investor or an audience.

Knowing your audience: the investor pitch

After Heather, Kamil Nabong, founder of Dropifi, the first African company to go to 500 Startups, and current Senior Fellow at the MEST Incubator Accra, taught pitching to investors. After having pitched to tons of investors in Silicon Valley, he explained how investors think when they see a pitch. Like Ashwin and Heather, he stressed that it is important to tell a story, instead of pitch, because telling a story makes people feel inspired. While people will forget what you did, they will remember how you made them feel, and the stories that you told. So, what makes a good story?

Kamil explained that first of all, a story during a pitch needs to inform: it needs to share exactly what investors need. Second, it needs to make the investor feel involved. Therefore, it is important that you research who the investor is, his background, projects he has invested in what his concerns are. Personalize your story based on that, and make it address their concerns.

Last, the story needs to inspire. You want investors to remember your story, be touched by it. This is both the most important and the most difficult part of creating a story. Usually you tell investors your own story, or a problem you observed. Then, it is important to create a sense of urgency for solving the problem and describe your solution. Be clear about your trajectory, your milestones.

Partnerships: expressing mutual value

Last but not least, Nana Prempeh, cofounder of Asoriba and a Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur, discussed pitching to partners. During his presentation, he explained how and why he established partnerships with three major brands: Vodafone, Barclays Africa Group and Interswitch. He explained that partnerships can help your startup get access to new markets, scale up, and help run your business more effectively.

In the first instance, you should mainly pitch to a (potential) partner to get a follow-up meeting. Next, it is important that when meeting up with a partner, you do your research on their business model, and explain your business: what does your business do? What is your market segment size and what are your revenue lines?

Next, explain the opportunities in partnering with you: explain, for instance, what kind of products they will plug into or how their market size will increase. Last, include a contract summary: explain what you and your partner have to do, give them a timeline and structure, tell them about the milestones and what results you can both expect. Also, make sure that you tailor your slide deck to speak to their brand. For instance, add logos and colours that correspond with their brand. When trying to partner with bigger companies, it is really important to understand how they make money, and which costs they want to reduce, and to emphasize how a partnership with you can help them achieve these goals.

Want to learn how to become a pitching pro like Nana, Alfred, Kamil and Ashwin? Apply for the MEST training program 2020 cohort!