Prepping for a Five-Minute Funding Pitch

About a week ago I had a wonderful opportunity – I gave one of the five pitches at the January 2012 5×5 Night. Mike Marsiglia, myself, and three others have been working on a side product for about a year now[1] and I pitched it at 5×5. We were planning to use the money to hold several small marketing events to meet new customers, but we were not selected to receive any money. Despite not winning the juried award, we still took home $135 as part of Mercantile Bank’s sponsorship and met about a half dozen sales leads. Not bad!

Here are some of the steps I took to prepare for the most intense talk I’ve ever delivered.

Start Early

I submitted the application to 5×5 in late December and had well over a month to start prepping. I spend a lot of time walking around town since I live so close to work and downtown Grand Rapids. Over the course of January I’d think about the individual lines I’d use; whenever I came up with something that sounded good, I’d record it on my phone. This gave me plenty of material to start from when I started putting the actual pitch together. By the way, starting super early has always worked well for me – whether it be for a class paper, my Master’s thesis, a conference paper, or a 5×5 pitch.

Consult with Friends

I’m fortunate to have some great resources available. After my pitch had been accepted I first got together with my team; we spent an afternoon brainstorming and putting together an outline for the pitch. Then I gave a private pitch to three friends from Atomic. Lastly, I gave the pitch to a couple dozen Atomic colleagues at lunch. Most of the feedback made it into the pitch. This is why working together is so valuable.

Consult with the Community

A friend of mine had a great suggestion – since we were looking to acquire money for marketing events, why not do a quick consultation with a marketing firm? Lucky for me Reagan Marketing is across the street from Atomic’s office! Kristen and Melissa were kind enough to talk to me for about a half an hour; their ideas were great and some worked their way into the pitch. As a fellow consultant I understand how valuable their time is and I greatly appreciate their generosity. Thanks again!

Know When to Write it Down

I normally don’t read off paper or index cards when I give talks, but this time I decided to read from a prepared pitch. With only five minutes I didn’t have time for wandering sentences, stray thoughts, stuttering, weak language, etc. Shawn Crowley put it nicely – for something so short but so important, unless you can truly nail it, don’t try to memorize or wing it – read from something so that you ensure the best possible delivery. In my case, it turned out professional and awesome.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I’m sure this comes across as a no-brainer, but given the other talks I’ve seen over the years, I’m not convinced people spend at much time practicing as they could. In this case it was super easy to practice, since 5×5 pitches are limited to five minutes. Lots of practice made it easier and easier both stay within the time limit and build confidence in what I was saying. I’m sure I did over two dozen rehearsals in the week before the pitch. The walls in my kitchen are probably quite tired of the sound of my voice.

Again, I’m thankful for the opportunity to pitch at 5×5, and I’m anxious to see how I can apply some of the things I learned in future talks.

fn1. My team and I met at last year’s Startup Weekend event in Grand Rapids. Which we won. If you’re interested in working with fun, excited, smart tech people on a startup project, I encourage you to checkout a Startup Weekend event. They take place year-round and across the country. In fact, there’s a Detroit Startup Weekend taking place next weekend; several Atomic people will be there. Maybe we’ll see you there?