As a start-up all the books one reads talk about how important the business plan is and how it helps guide where you want your business to go. Well the next best thing about creating that business plan is entering it into competitions. There are many different competitions hosted all over the country. The majority of thee competitions are hosted by Universities and Colleges, but some are hosted by the city one lives in.
In a recent business plan competition I made some notes of the performances and figured the information might be useful to pass along to those who might enter this type of category to raise capital.
1. Know what you are talking about
This is your business you should know the ends and outs about it. I have a pet peeve of people say “Umm” and “uhhh” more than a few times. If that is the first word out of your mouth then typically you don’t know the answer to the question. If you need a little more time than just repeat the questions or ask for some type of clarification while you recall your information.
2. Don’t make wild goals
In this last competition I attend one of the speakers made a wild goal. The problem wasn’t that the goal was wild it was that the speaker had no idea how they were going to achieve this goal. It is ok to dream, but when you state a goal expect to be asked about. If you haven’t prepared for the question then you look a little foolish.
3. Present your own business
Naturally some people are afraid of public speaking. If you are a business owner and want to enter these types of competition, but are afraid to talk to people . . . do not enter. It is not worth it to have someone else talk for you either. It is your passion, your business and you want to tell people about it.
4. Using the microphone or not
This comes down to the size of the venue and how loud you are. I don’t like microphones. I like to have my hands free and anytime I hold a microphone I feel weird. This comes down to personal preference.
5. Beginning, middle, end
Your presentation should sound like a story. It should have a clear beginning stating what you do or the problem you are solving. It should then progress naturally to the next topic. If you feel like you have jumped from one idea to the next reword your speech so that it flows.
6. Not preparing your speech
You have to be an actor. You need to have your monologue prepared before you go in there. It can be changed on the fly if necessary. Learn a little bit about the judges and adjust your talk to reflect their interests. Even if you do change some of the content you should still use the words you rehearsed to transition from slide to slide.
One person in this last competition seemed to have just tossed their presentation together. The power point didn’t work right. The text was scrolling across the page (don’t do that). It was a mess. Even though the presenter knew the business and was enjoyable to listen to, his presentation wasn’t the best it could have been.
7. Going over on your time
Pay attention to your time limits. If this competition is based on time, then make sure you fit that. Nothing looks worse than having the investors yell at you multiple times to stop talking because you are over on your time.
8. Ask people how you did
At the end of your presentation ask the people watching how you did. Most of them have been in your situation before and would want to give honest constructive feedback. Plus this is also a great opportunity to network. Many times you can request feedback though email and it will give you an excuse to get their business card.
There is a lot of giving a business plan presentation. The best advice comes from listing to others present their topics, talking to people that have succeeded in getting funding, and trial and error. I hope these tips help you and you get funded for your next venture.