4 Years In The Game, I Still Have No Idea How To Pitch

by Jonathan Gebauer (@jogebauer)

Are you a startup founder? Are you a PR pro pitching the media? Do you know your perfect pitch?

If you do, enjoy the feeling. If you don’t, this article is for you.

Susanna and I founded exploreB2B more than four years ago. I still remember the first time I had to pitch in front of investors… well, business angels (not the same thing IMO :) ). I was nervous. A German crowd of angels with no clue what content marketing is, and exploreB2B? Not an easy pitch.

None of them invested – and after we had pitched, well, I don’t think they had an idea of what we were planning or doing.4 Years in the game

Let me fast forward to today. I’m still in the game, not a single day passes when I do not have to pitch (one way or the other). I had to pitch journalists, business people, investors and interested bystanders. Sometimes successfully, sometimes… not so much.

Maybe I don’t have a talent for pitching. I’m not the Steve Ballmer type of moderator, who will jump monkey-like in front of a crowd. Nor am I the Steve Jobs type, who will do product presentations that will make people go crazy enough to camp in front of stores instead of waiting a couple of weeks.

It’s not envy – but hey, I wouldn’t mind these character traits.

A couple of weeks ago, I was pitching again, at an accelerator here in Berlin. An event – about a hundred people. Two judges. I was nervous. Four years in the game, still getting sweaty hands.

From my perspective, the pitch went fine. The judges disagreed. Reactions from the crowd were ok, though. Questions after the pitch were clever, they had understood what we were doing, someone called it “amazing”.

I asked one of the judges afterwards – and he said something interesting: He said that we are in the business of buzz creation, and for him, buzz is such an emotional topic, that he missed the emotional element.

Thinking back, I’ve been in many situations where the emotional element got in the way when pitching. I’ve also been in many situations where I needed it.

The lesson to be learned here: There is simply no way for me to know before the event what the perfect pitch will be. It differs from day to day. The perfect pitch for me doesn’t exist. If you are a startup in an early stage, you may find that the same holds true for you.

So just roll with it. Failure and success are closer together than you might think.

This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

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  • Natalie Bovair

    I can relate. I’m able to structure content and deliver appropriate presentations but finding that sweet spot can be hard. I’ve been most successful at selling when I can demonstrate depth of knowledge and passion for the idea.

  • Catherine Reid

    Ten years in PR and a pitch more often than not comes down to chemistry. One client’s idea of the perfect pitch will be a miss with another. You can only do your best to understand what they want, and their pain points, by doing your research, asking the right questions in advance and reading the mood of the room once there, adapting as necessary.

  • Reader546

    You lost me at “Susanna and me.” Ugh.

  • http://rebelkoala.com Steven Sudy

    Jonathan, you know you can always contact me! 😉 Btw, you are absolutely right: THE perfect pitch changes every day. The perfect pitch is not scripted: it’s told. Awesome article!

  • Moira Vetter

    I know exactly how you feel. I did this blog on the topic of pitches. Not for investors…just for selling our service. Just keep on keeping on. The sweat will fall away. The emotion will get stronger. Make sure to force your passion into your logic. http://www.modomodoagency.com/blog/you-me-us-the-agency-pitch-dilemma/

  • Podium Wisdom

    Thank you for this honest and reflective take on pitching! I’ve heard of presenters who prepare different versions of their pitch, then decide which one to use based on their interactions with the investors and audiences. I wonder if you have tried this, and if yes, whether you’ve found it helpful?

  • http://idomissu.blogspot.com/ Umesh Singh

    It is really hard to accept your weakness infront of people but you did it honestly. I agree with you, I am working as a SEO and blogger but still don’t know how to pitch. :)

  • Savita Kapoor

    I thought I am going to get some tips on pitching. But yes that’s true. It differs day to day.

  • tisthefinalcountdown

    That is so true, after 5 years I still don’t know what the perfect pitch is. My presentations may have approved but I have no idea how to convince the investors because you can never know what they are thinking.