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Pitch Clinics offer innovators chance to get real-time feedback

Posted by Deborah Drake

Excitement and anticipation filed the air, each time last week as a series of six Pitch Clinic Sessions occurred. On September 8th, Impact HUB Seattle hosted two packed sessions. Two days later on September 10th, Impact HUB Bellevue hosted innovators in the Mercury Room (may the Messenger God be your friend!) and lastly, on September 12th the Student Pitch Clinics took place at Eastside Preparatory School in Bellevue.

In all, nearly 51 Quarterfinalists attended Pitch Clinics, and those I spoke to reported great satisfaction with the quality, candor, and abundance of valuable real-time feedback given.

One of the notable elements of the SVP Fast Pitch Program is the coaching and mentoring that begins after coaches are assigned to innovators– shortly after Quarterfinalists are determined. There’s no time to lose with the schedule slightly compressed as it is this year.

Often there is a dramatic shift in presentation strength and self-confidence from Pitch Clinics to Quarterfinals; and again between the Quarterfinals and Semi-Finals. It is an honor and joy to watch founders grow as presenters.

The quiet find their voice.
The introvert embraces the spotlight.
The storyteller in each is encouraged.

Each session, innovators who hadn’t seen each other since the Innovator Orientation and Volunteer Picnic gathered to share their pitches for the first time ever. The plan for each session was simple.

Five minutes for pitches.
Ten minutes for live feedback from coaches, volunteers, and fellow innovators.
And, as official emcee Christine Gilbert reminded innovators, “Listen and take it all in knowing it is for your benefit.”

Time and again the same insightful advice was kindly given by first time volunteers and some seasoned SVP Fast Pitch coaches—who have coached innovators all the way to the Final Showdown. Innovators too contributed in giving insightful feedback, once they relaxed after  first presenters bravely presented in each session.

For all (but especially for the soft spoken), it is important to remember that you are setting yourself up to speak to thousands in a room who don’t know what you know.

What kind of advice was given repeatedly?

Less word on slides. Larger fonts. Bigger graphics.
Ground yourself before presenting.
Don’t forget about making eye contact.
Avoid too long of a lead-up story.
Practice your vocal pacing because before a crowd you’ll speed up if you are nervous.
Double and triple check that you stay aligned with the four key rubric measures.
Visuals don’t always need to be photographs, illustrations tell the story too.
Weave a single story through the pitch with simple language that paints a picture.
Don’t be self-deprecating. Frame things in the positive to boost your energy.
Talk boldly about what you have accomplished.
Make clear the value of what you are providing.
Be clear about the leadership team and their credentials.
Kill your darlings and avoid jargon terms and acronyms.
Silence actually sells (giving time for things to sink in).
Don’t make the audience choose between listening to you or reading the slides.
Practice good pacing, use of story, and remember humor works too.
Show a walk-through of an online transaction when it applies.
Ask of each slide “so what?”
Make stats pop and accentuate the story you are telling.
When practicing work on your energy and pacing.
Don’t run your words together. Breathe.
Pause to let people digest your content and your humor.
You can always end with an add-on like “I’d be happy to tell you more post presentation.”
Make a clear ask.

And, again, remember to breathe.

Anyone else seeing the pattern I’m seeing?

On the eve of Quarterfinals, I can almost feel the innovators practicing to refine themselves by 7am tomorrow morning. Time for some sleep myself.

See you at the Final Showdown on October 27th!

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