David Beckett is an online presentation and pitch trainer, author of Pitch To Win and creator of The Pitch Canvas©. He has coached over 1400 Startups that have made outstanding pitches and raised over €340 Million in investment, and 20,000+ professionals at companies like Shell, IKEA, Philips, PwC, Google and Booking.com to make winning pitches. David is also one of our speakers for Present to Succeed 2022! (By the way, tickets are on sale!)

In this episode, we discuss investor and sales pitches, the significance of slides in successful pitches, and how to improve your pitching skills.

How he ended up in the industry

He has worked for quite a popular company, Canon, for 16 years and, during that time, has given over 1000 presentations. After that, he moved to pitch coaching. David says that he had to learn how to present well very early in his working life.

David shares that throughout his advertising years, he and the others around him pitched so regularly that it became instinctive, and they forgot they were doing it. Then he invested a lot of time and effort to make this talent a strength in him after realizing how much influence it has.

Why learn how to pitch

He believes that a macro trend is that people don’t have time. So much so that their default position is “Sorry, no, I’m busy,” which you have to alter with pitching to “Okay, tell me more.”

“The goal of the pitch is not they understand everything, the goal of the pitch is they’re open to hearing more,” David explains.

Investor pitches

There are vast differences between startup pitches and pitching ideas to customers. When presenting to investors, investors consider the clarity of the problem you address and if it is worth fixing. Then, are people going to pay to have it fixed?

The starting point is always the problem you solve. Surprisingly, the product is not an important part of the story for investors. What they are interested in is if you have taken the product to potential customers already. Have you learned from them? Are you growing? They want to see the momentum.

Another thing they care about is the people behind this idea and do they have the needed skills for bringing it to the next level. On top of that, they look for the passion in the eyes of the entrepreneur. They want to know that you are enthusiastic about it and why.

According to David, the team behind the idea is essential for both. Yet, while investors are interested in learning more about the people behind the company, customers are less concerned with it. The customers want to know what product or collective skills you have that will help them succeed.

David believes that those are the pillars – the problem, the customer validation, the traction, the team, and your motivation.

Pitch Canvas

David tells us about a tool he has created called Pitch Canvas for startups. It is a tool that helps you figure out your selling points and make sure that you have them correctly. He uses it in workshops and has created a Pitch Canvas for businesses, too, because the phases, finances and resources for a startup and an idea or a project are different.

You can download it below in the Resources section.

What is the role of slides in a successful pitch?

We use slides because we aim to engage two senses: hearing and sight. And because people cannot listen and read at the same time, the pitch deck has to be simple while yet providing the structure you want. Emphasize the themes and key messages on the visuals.

According to David, having a presentation and a document to distribute afterwards is critical because it becomes a problem when people merge those two things. You have to have one to present and one to send. And yes, that means more work.

David tells us a three-part question to ask ourselves – What do I want? How much is it going to cost me? Am I prepared to pay the price? If the last response is no, you must reconsider the initial answer. But when you have a successful pitch – you forget about the effort it took to get there.

Finally, do not apply everything you learn every time. Instead, only when it matters.

One thing that stands out in successful pitches

David says that a big issue is talking about what we do. You want to talk about all the work you did because you did a lot of work. But the fact is, what matters is what people can do with what you have built.

The job done is also not that relevant to investors. They want to know how you help people by saving them time or money.

“Focus on what people can do as a result of what you do, not here’s what we do,” David says.

How to approach the audience

The more you try to understand who you’re talking to, the better the pitch will go. Do the work and the research – go to LinkedIn, find your audience and discover what interests them. Is there something that would resonate with their interest? Do they want to change the world or just improve it a little bit? It would change the whole language of your proposition for the better.

We are all essentially human beings, and we enjoy our world and our hobbies. So, if someone appeals to those interests, we feel more connected to that person. Taking the effort to create that additional connection might mean the difference between success and failure. Get to know the people and translate that into pitching.

The people who make decisions are human beings, whether they are investors or customers.

Make your mistakes human

According to David, the best thing to do if you forget is to remain calm and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve lost my place, please give me a moment.” Then go back and pick it up again. People will back you up; they don’t despise you for making mistakes; in fact, they like it.

David emphasizes the necessity of taking breaks between practices. He shares a situation in which the speaker, who had over-practised, panicked and went blank.


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