Pitch mistakes. What are they and how can we avoid them?

If you are an entrepreneur, you are pitching every day. You might not realize it, but it happens all the time. Whether you talk to a client, co-worker, a friend or even a stranger, you are pitching your company more often than you think.

Pitching a lot is a good thing. It can help you to get clients, partners of perhaps even an investor. Because of the importance of a good pitch, you should be aware of these 30 mistakes many entrepreneurs make. They are listed in a random order, since one mistake might be less important in your industry than in somebody else’s.

Here are 30 pitch mistakes, made by many entrepreneurs around the world.

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1. They start by introducing yourself

Yes. It’s very important that your listener knows who you are. But it’s more important to get your listener to actually listen to what you are saying. Instead of starting by telling who you are, it’s often better to start off with an exciting introduction which grabs the attention of the listener.

2. They talk too long

In general it’s better to have your pitch a little bit too short, than a little bit too long. After you are done pitching there will be time for questions and answers. This is where you can get into details.

The first goal of your pitch shouldn’t be to explain everything. Your first pitch should be about making the listener excited.

3. They use too many slides

Just like talking too long, you can also be using too many slides. Don’t bore the listener with all details around your company. Get him excited and discuss details later.

4. They talk too fast

We get it, you’re nervous and you want to get this over with as soon as possible. Unfortunately this won’t bring you the best quality.. Use these 5 tips to come across relaxed and confident.

5. They keep their hands in their pockets

When you are pitching your company, you want people to think that you care about the subject. Right?

If you keep your hands in your pockets, this comes across as uninterested and makes you look bad. Read this article to fix your body language.

6. They don’t stand still for a second

Many entrepreneurs can’t seem to stand still when they pitch. This makes you look restless and nervous. It’s okay to walk from time to time, but you should keep it limited to a few steps per minute.

7. They never pause during their pitch

If you want your listener to understand what you say, you should give him time to digest your words.

A well timed pause is one of the most effective methods to improve the quality of a pitch.

8.  They use industry jargon

Unless you are pitching to the number one industry expert, you should avoid using industry jargon. You might be familiar with your industry’s terminology, your listener likely isn’t.

Some entrepreneurs think it makes them seem like experts if they use industry jargon. Unfortunately for them that’s not the case. It makes you look silly and it will drive your listener elsewhere.

9. They want to mention every detail

It’s a good thing that you planned out everything for your company and that you’re very excited for it. Bravo!

However, that doesn’t mean your listener cares about every single detail of your company. Pitching the basic building blocks of your company is more effective and yields better results than discussing it from a to z.

10. They try to sell too much

Some entrepreneurs think pitching is always about selling. Although this might be true in some cases, you should always do it in a subtle way. It’s better to get somebody excited about your product than to push it right down their throats.

11. Their text also displays on their slides

If you use pitch slides with your pitch, you shouldn’t use too much text on the slides. In fact, it’s better to remove any text at all. It distracts your listener and makes him confused.

12. They keep staring at their slides

When you’re pitching it’s important to create a connection with your listener. Looking at your slides (too often) is a disaster for this connection. They’ll notice you aren’t paying attention to the listener, and they will wonder off.

13. They read their pitch from paper

Just like 12, you should never break the connection with your listener. The moment you stop looking at them will be the moment when they stop listening.

“The moment you stop looking at them will be the moment when they stop listening”

14. Their pitch isn’t structured

Your pitch should follow a clear structure. A good structure looks something like this:

  1. Opening
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Business model
  5. Team
  6. Call to action

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15. They didn’t practice before

Too often you see entrepreneurs struggling to get their words out. Not only does this make you look unprepared, it also gives the impression that you aren’t confident about your company.

To deliver your pitch with flair, you should practice it at least 50 times. Here are the 9 steps to practice your pitch.

16. They didn’t gather feedback on their pitch

When it comes to your own company you always have a blind spot. Before you pitch your company you should always ask for feedback from others. This way you make sure you don’t miss out on anything.

17. They didn’t research the competition

A frequently asked question after you pitched is ‘who are your competitors?’. Whenever this questions arises you should have a list of competitors ready in your head. Additionally, you should be able to explain why you are different and how you are better than the competition.

 18. They forget to mention their progress

Many entrepreneurs fail to mention the progress their company has made since they launched. This is a missed opportunity to make your listener excited.

Let’s say you were able to get your first 100 customers in just 3 months, imagine how many customers you’ll have by the end of the year! You should use data driven statements like these to impress your listener.

19. They use generic pitch slides

Unfortunately this still happens too often: Somebody googled for ‘pitch slides’ and  copied them into their own presentation. This makes you look uncreative and unprepared. Check out this article to learn how to design your slides.

20. They don’t end with a call to action

Let’s say you just did an amazing pitch and your listener got truly excited about your company or project. This is the time to ask your listener for a favor. This could be anything, ranging from:

  • We are looking for an investment of 250k. Shall we have lunch next week?
  • We are looking for a partner for our sales channel. Shall we meet for coffee tomorrow?

Depending on what you’re looking for your call to action can be many things.

21. They talk features instead of benefits

Many entrepreneurs feel like the technological features of their product are important to mention to their listeners. This is a big mistake.

Instead of telling them how it worksyou should focus on what it can do for them. An example:

Don’t say: The new iphone has a 1300:1 contrast ratio

Do say: The new iphone has a breath taking HD screen which you can use to watch the newest movies.

22. They try to solve too many problems

People can only remember so much. If your company solves 10 problems, but 8 of them are minor you should focus only on the two big ones.

23. They aren’t open for feedback from the listener

After your pitch you’ll probably get some feedback from the listener. Some entrepreneurs find it difficult to deal with feedback and become defensive right away. This isn’t beneficial for the relationship between you and the listener.

24. They don’t mention the opportunity or size of the market

One of the greatest things about startups is the fact that they have the potential to become a worldwide success. Simply adding one sentence where you refer to the size of the market reminds the listener abouto the potential success of your company.

25. They claim to have no competition

Although your company might be unique in that it does, there will always be competition. Denying the fact that there are competitors makes you look naive and arrogant.

26. They use cliché phrases

Lots of pitches include one of the following sentences:

  • We just need 3% of the market (not likely you will get that)
  • We will go viral through online marketing (unless you already have big traction, why should I believe this)
  • This product promotes itself (probably not)
  • We will be bought within 2 years by Samsung or Apple (probably not)

27. They forget to mention the team’s skillset and experience

You can have a great idea, but it’s unlikely others haven’t thought of it. The biggest asset of your company is your team.

During your pitch you should emphasize the quality of your team members. Do they have a special skillset or industry experience?

28. They aren’t humble

One of the biggest assets a pitcher can have is being humble. If you are humble throughout your pitch, the listener will be more likely to listen to you and comply with your call to action.

29. They don’t smile

If you don’t smile during your pitch, it gives the impresstion that you don’t like what you do. If you don’t even like what you do, why should the listener like what you do?

By smiling you seem happy, confident and energized. These are exactly the traits an entrepreneur should have.

30. They aren’t excited about their own company

Imagine an entrepreneur pitches his own company but looks uninterested or distracted during his pitch. What effect would this have on you?

That’s right, you would become uninterested and distracted as well.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you get the chance to pitch your own company, you should be 100% focused on you pitch.

31. They forget to research the dress code (bonus)

Your suit is awesome. Honestly, it is! However, if you’re attending a classic entrepreneurial on friday afternoon you’re probably overdressed. Make sure to do a quick research on the dress code before you go to your pitch.  Although it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, a quick research is definitely worth your time.

32. They didn’t double check their technology (bonus)

I’ve seen it too often. Somebody is in the middle of his pitch and wants to play a short movie but it won’t play. Although you probably don’t want to play videos during your pitch, please make sure it works fine if you go ahead and do it anyway. 

Special thanks to reader & public speaker Hammad Zahid for additions 31 and 32. These ones definitely deserve to be on the list as well.

Conclusion

There are many ways entrepreneurs screw up their pitch. Even though not every mistake is necessarily disastrous, you should try to avoid all of them.

Use this list as a checklist the next time when you pitch and you’ll be fine.

Do you want to get your pitch skills to the next level? Get your copy of the Ultimate Pitch Guide and become a professional pitcher now.

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