Pitching my small business

I am the kind of person who would rather stick pins in my eye then get up and talk in front of a room full of people. When I was in high school, I would literally fall apart if I had to do an oral presentation. Hands shaking, nausea, absolutely no chance of doing a presentation without notes. Since starting my business, I have had several occasions where I have had to get up and talk about Little Birdy Cakes. Networking events, presentations, mentoring sessions and a panel discussion.

Going back to where it started

Years ago when I worked in the big bad corporate world, I attended a sales training workshop. It was one of the few training session that I attended over the years that truly had value. At the start of the workshop, we had to get up in front of everyone and tell the room a little about ourselves. There were set questions we had to answer, most of which I can’t remember, but the last one was something to do with our hobbies or passion. Each presentation was filmed and then played back to us. This was around the time that I had found my passion for cakes.

Learning how to speak with passion from a sales training exercise opened my eyes to how I communicate

During my presentation, I spoke about my passion for cakes. When we watched it back, the trainer pointed out the difference in the way that I spoke about cakes to how I normally spoke. And he was right, I had a whole different manner that was more natural and alive. Since that training, I have always reassured myself, whenever doing a presentation, that my passion will always speak for itself.  

Pitching Little Birdy Cakes

I recently took part in a pitching event which put me in a room of about 40-50 people plus a panel of 5 judges to pitch Little Birdy Cakes. To say that I was nervous would have been an understatement. There was some awesome prizes up for grabs including commercial kitchen equipment and mentoring in an area of the winners choosing. The whole event was amazing and went over three weeks. With panel discussions, workshops and the grand finale of the pitches. All together, there were 22 people pitching, which weren’t great odds, but I figured I had nothing to lose.

Practice makes perfect, right?

One of my main motivations for getting involved was to help refine my pitch. At some point in the future, I will most likely need to approach an investor or two to help get Little Birdy Cakes onto a national scale. While we are nowhere near that point yet, I figure at least when we are ready, I will have had a lot of practice to get my pitch right. So off I went. I wrote down everything I wanted to say and then filmed myself doing my pitch.

I will most likely need to approach an investor

I watched it back, edited the pitch and then filmed it again. It crossed my mind to post some of my efforts here but I fear the swearing (when I forgot what I was trying to say or muddled it up) or the expression on my face when I am trying to plough through with my kids jumping up and down trying to get my attention (because they can’t bare to be ignored for 2 minutes) is just awful. Despite watching myself over and over and over, it is still cringe worthy watching it.

Could I win?

Let me just say before going on, I didn’t win anything. Let’s not get distracted by that possibility. The pitch itself went really well. I remembered my whole speech without notes (such a huge achievement for me, I have a terrible memory). I paused where I wanted to and finished right on the 2 minute time limit.

The only thing that tripped me up was one of the questions about %’s. My mind did one of those blind panic things where in my head it was like “gross margin, that’s what he said right? Not net, definitely not net. What if he said net and I just think he said gross. Say something, you have paused for too long. Just say something, it’s getting embarrassing”.  Of course, I spat out the first thing that came into my head which wasn’t what he asked. Extra annoying because I can tell you any figure on my P & L. Any figure you like. But not when it counted most.

Pitching Little Birdy Cakes to 5 judges and 50 people

I had a friend film the pitch and when I watched it back it told a different story.  The microphone cord distracted me (why was there a microphone!!!), I didn’t pause (huh!) and the time it took me to answer the question wrongly? No time at all, I barely missed a beat. All my life I have been told that I talk to fast, especially when I am nervous. I’ve always made a conscious effort to slow my speech when presenting. I guess now I have to add to that, double my pauses so they actually seem like pauses. Anticipate the questions. Be more confident with my answers. I knew what he was asking but panicked. 

Feedback

After the event, I had a chance to hear some feedback from the judges. It was the comments made while deliberating. They were going through a process of elimination so it was mostly in the negative. The judges loved our business concept/model. They thought it had legs and was filling a need that clearly needed addressing.

Where it came unstuck was that one judge asked another if they would use Little Birdy Cakes, they said no and then the next judge was asked, who also said no and so on. That was the end of us. It’s not all bad news. As there was no reason behind the no’s, I can’t take much from it. It could be simply that they are not our target audience. Seeing as they are all in hospitality, that is highly likely. But I can’t do anything but speculate. What I am heartened by is that they liked our concept and felt like we are addressing a pain point. I feared that I would not be able to convey our vision in just 2 minutes and clearly I did that.

It could be simply that they are not our target audience

What did I learn?

Next time I have to pitch Little Birdy Cakes I will be better prepared and a little less nervous. I will anticipate any questions that might come up and answer more confidently. No blind panic and letting my brain run off and desert me. But mostly have confidence in myself. I went in feeling like everyone else’s stories where ground in something solid and life changing (the honey producer trying to educate people on the importance of bees, the businesses changing people’s perceptions on allergy free foods etc). Our story I felt, didn’t have any weight when compared to theirs. Not true. It is no better or worse, just different and addressing a different pain point.

I look forward to the next opportunity to work on my pitching technique. Not really, but I know it has to be done.

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