NEF Pitching days (Round 3)
Friday 23rd May 2014, Innovation Warehouse, London.
The third and final NEF pitch day of 2014 was the big one for me because it was my pitch day!
That morning, and the 10 minute pitch, was the culmination of many weeks and months of hard work and preparation on a business venture I hope too soon launch named Palmarès. Put simply, Palmarès is a new and exciting social network, exclusively for endurance sports athletes and enthusiasts. I’ll be focusing mostly on cyclists and triathletes to begin with but hopefully the concept will quickly be adopted by many other sports. Think ‘LinkedIn, but for sports’ – and that’s the ball-park I want to play in with Palmarès. If you’re wondering where the name comes from – Palmarès is actually a French word already commonplace in professional cycling circles. It translates roughly as ‘Prize list’ or ‘list of races a rider has won’ – it fits brilliantly with the ethos and vision for my venture.
In the run-up to the pitch day, I’d spent many late nights crafting and then perfecting my pitch deck and script and had also run through a practice pitch in front of my work colleagues and team at TalkTalk. That was a really good idea. While the practice pitch was a bit painful and not my most elegant performance – it helped to quickly highlight some timing issues and a few errors with the rhythm of the presentation (I cut a few pages from the deck the night before and took on a heap of feedback from my work colleagues).
On the morning of the pitch I made sure to get to the venue super early (before the NEF team even), and spent some time preparing mentally and rehearsing my script in my head. The one thing I was particularly happy with myself for, and which helped me a lot – was the way I designed my slides and script. My script was obviously spoken, and had to be memorised. I had written it down previous and it basically included the best language I could possibly use to communicate and convey key messages during my pitch – but I knew full well that I may forget they exact words and language in the heat of the moment. So to mitigate for this – I designed and sequenced my slides so that they told a story throughout the pitch, and the imagery on my slides (of which there was a lot) – was a brilliant pointer to jog my memory and remind me where I was and what content I was talking about. This made it easy, if I came off-script at all – to keep on track and improvise for a slide or two. I made a point of not dumping huge amounts of text or data onto my slides – but rather to use highly engaging images and infographics which re-enforced the words I was speaking over them. This seemed to work well for me anyway.
As soon as I took the stage and got maybe 10seconds in, I found I was in my rhythm and the words came quite easily. I seemed to fly through the pitch deck (not at a millions miles I might add) – but I made my way through all of my slides and all the key messaging I wanted to get across, very well and succinct, and I think I may have actually come in under the time limit for once!
The experience of standing up in front of a room full of my NEF classmates, the NEF team, and a panel of 6 highly successful entrepreneurs and potential investors – was fantastic!
I really made a point to engage with the panel, and in fact I remember feeling like I was completely neglecting the rest of the room altogether! Probably a good thing. I put the advice I’d received to good use, spoke clear and purposefully and looked directly at the members of the panel. No point looking off into the distance or at my daft mate in the back row I thought – it was those 6 investors in the front row that I had to impress!
The Q&A session wasn’t quite the firing squad I’d maybe worried it would be. It was a very open and constructive conversation exploring my options and the advice the panel were giving me. I think 3 of the panel really engaged with my pitch and found my idea struck a chord with them. One panelist went on to say that he had two friends, both looking for new ventures to invest in, and both very keen endurance athletes themselves – but that he thought my venture was maybe too early stage for them, and that I should seek them out further down the line. Can’t argue much with feedback like that, thanks! Another guest in the audience offered an introduction to a personal friend of hers who is CEO at an endurance sports events organiser. All of this feedback and offers of help and advice was great and I came away from the day in good spirits and proud of my efforts so far.