Jason Calacanis’ 20 secret tips for pitch perfection (from the Lexity Live Sales LAUNCH launch)

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 1.16.04 AM50 startups launched at the LAUNCH festival this week, and if you watch the videos, it feels like each one of them channeled late Billy Mays, the legendary TV pitchman. So, are great founders born great presenters?

Turns out, behind the scenes, Jason and Tyler Crowley spent tens of hours working with every startup, helping them hone, and sometimes rewrite, their pitches. In-person, on-Skype, on-stage – until every startup sounded pitch perfect.

Lexity was one of these 50 startups who benefited, and launched to great applause! So what were the top lessons we startups learned from them? Here they are.

Top 3 Tips

  1. Show your product in the first 15 seconds. 6 years of data says – the audience gives you exactly 15 seconds before they turn to Facebook or Email. Nothing engages more then a picture or demo of your product, so show it to them quickly!
  2. Practice makes perfect. Dropbox got a 5/10 at their first rehearsal. The second time it was 8/10 – and a 9.5/10 by the time they got on stage. So keep practicing! (Lexity itself went from a 5.5 to… you be the judge)
  3. Things will go wrong. So, always be prepared. Have a full video of your entire demo, so you can run it and narrate over it, if need be. In fact, Lexity’s own demo hit WiFi snags while presenting, but the video recovery worked well.

Choosing the right content

  • Tell a story. Pick a customer, give him/her a real name and an actual background, and tell a story of how they’d use your product, and why it makes a difference to their lives.
  • Show your product. Use 2 slides at most – instead, focus on showing off your product. Do a couple of different use cases. Demo a signup flow if it drives the simplicity message. And, mention pricing so the market positioning is clear.
  • Include: testimonials. Exclude: trigger words. If you have prominent users with actual usage photos/stories/quotes, use them! On the other end, avoid trigger words like ‘it’s entirely legal!’ – leave that for Q&A 🙂
  • Use context. If possible, use a familiar context. Some startups used Jason or the LAUNCH conference as context, Knowyo even used a picture of the presenter from the pitch right before them!

Structuring the delivery

  • Address the Elephant. What does the audience notice most when they’re looking at your demo? Is it a big, unexplained number in the middle? A large colorful icon you haven’t talked about? Explain things in the sequence they’ll be noticed, or at least address the elephant in the room quickly.
  • Humor hurts good products. If your product is good, let it speak for itself. Humor works, but in low doses. A lot, and the audience starts wondering if the presenter is compensating for the lack of a good product.
  • Identify the WOW. At what point in your presentation does the audience go WOW? If there isn’t one, make one happen. If there is one, make sure to make to build up to the crescendo!

Navigating the Presentation

  • Ctrl-swipe to zoom in. On a mac, you can hold down Control and swipe up or down with two fingers to zoom in and out. Use this to zoom the screen on what you want the audience to focus on.
  • Use Text expansion to enter text quickly. On a mac, program text shortcuts to write out long sentence you’re supposed to type, by typing a macro like ‘xxx’. This even works on the iPhone. Reliable, and quick.
  • Use Reflector.app to mirror a smartphone. Instead of relying on a video camera or ‘elmo’ to show interactions done on a phone, use the Reflector app, which display the contents of your iPhone on a Mac, and then project the Mac instead.
  • Or turn up the brightness. If you do end up projecting up the video of a mobile phone or tablet, remember to turn up the brightness, so the picture quality looks good.

On Stage!

  • Involve the audience (only if you’re sure!) Starting the presentation off with an audience question works really well – but only if at least 15% participate. If nobody does, it looks bad, and could throw off your rhythm. Use with caution!
  • Address judges by name. When answering questions, try to use their name. For some reason, all of us like the sound of our names 🙂
  • Always sound confident. You don’t have all the answers – but the judges don’t need to know that! Think fast, be confident, but always give a specific answer.
  • Answer within 15 seconds. Answer as many questions as you can – and answer each within 15 seconds. Hard question? You can move to the next one quickly. Soft question? Answer it quickly, and drop the mike on the floor. #BOOM

These are the top lessons I learned – but there were so many more. Jason and Tyler really did a great job, and I can’t wait till next year!

What’s your best tip for doing pitch presentations? Share it below!

Amit Kumar
Founder & CEO, Lexity

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