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From Zero to a Million: How to craft a great pitch without spending time on it

The night before my pitch at the Fintech Forum I still wasnt able to present Hardbacon in less than 7 minutes. I had been warned that the 5-minute time limit was non-negotiable. Furthermore, I didnt know my presentation by heart, so its delivery time varied from one attempt to the next. I knew I hadnt spent enough time perfecting it.

That said, I was able to prepare a pitch that wasnt perfect, but one that helped me achieve my objective: To present my start-up and the business opportunity it would targetwhile not being too boring.

It was funny to find myself back on stage. In my former life as a reporter, I watched young hot shots deliver countless pitches. Over the past few years I was also frequently a judge at these kinds of events. I can tell you that its much easier (and more amusing) to be the mean guy on the judging panel rather than going to bat to sell the merits of your start-up.

Despite everything, if theres one thing I learned by going to too many Demo Day events is that the 5-minute presentations that follow quickly become sleep inducing. Even someone who doesnt take notes would only remember three or four of the 10, 15 or 20 presentations that took place during an evening.

The other presentations were not necessarily poor, but they didnt stand out enough to be memorable. Also, even though a presentation may be well put together, it has no real value if it doesnt stand out, in my opinion.

If you have a nice voice, why not sing your slogan at the beginning? You can be certain that people will stop fiddling with their cellphones and start paying attention. They will remember you a long time after your pitch as the guy or girl who sang their slogan.

I have a terrible singing voice, so I gambled on telling a personal story to explain Hardbacons mission. I explained that when I was 18 years old, I wanted to invest my $1000 savings into the stock market, but my bank told me that it wasnt enough money. In the minds of many of those who didnt know me that night I became The guy who wanted to invest $1000 in the stock market when he was 18, which is an easier label to remember than The guy who wants to democratize the financial system

It was that, or they remembered me because of Hardbacons bold slogan, with which I finished my pitch with: We help you grow your money and avoid getting screwed.

Having said that, delivering a pitch is much more difficult than it appears, as standing out is not enough. You have to be able to explain what you do very precisely, by providing more answers than questions to your audience. To do so, you must deliver your pitch many times, get feedback, and return to the drawing board.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to get feedback every week over the last two months at sessions organized by District 3 and Finance Montral. These sessions helped me greatly, and I would have been better prepared if I had taken the time to seriously rework my presentation each week.

I ended up doing it a few days before my presentation at the Fintech Forum. I took the time to record my pitch, and then transcribed my improvised spiel word for word in an Excel spreadsheet. The wording was somewhat awkward, but it truly reflected the way I normally express myself. Thats very important, as if I had come across as just reciting a text, no matter how elegant it was, I could be perceived as not being authentic. And my objective was the complete opposite.

I then modified my pitch line by line, making sure to repeat each changed sentence out loud. If it didnt come out of my mouth naturally, I fell back to the previous version, as I didnt want to risk stumbling on a particular passage, or worse, to appear to be reciting it. So thats what I did, trying to integrate all the feedback obtained from the previous pitches as well as the advice I got from Alexandre Shee of Real Ventures, who agreed to coach me at the last minute.

By Tuesday morning I still didnt know my pitch by heart, even after repeatedly delivering it to my team many times. But I was able to do it without too many mistakes in about 5m 30s, which was only 30 seconds too much. I was satisfied. What was important now was not to stress out, so I avoided drinking any Red Bull that day.

In the end, I didnt win the competition. It was Tim Nixon from Payment Rails who took the honoursand he deserved it. His start-up has been in existence for more than a year, he developed an impressive payment platform and he had a well-oiled pitch. That said, I was very satisfied. My goal was to present Hardbacon to an audience of finance professionals, and I succeeded. If youre curious, you can watch my presentation below. And yes, it did last for 6 minutes and I wasnt thrown off the stage at all.

Major Accomplishments:

Pitched at the Fintech Forum

First meeting with a mentor from Rseau M

Launched the Hardbacon investor compass

Planned our future crowdfunding campaign

Growth Metrics:

Revenues: $100 (total: $1500, growth: 7%)

New Newsletter subscribers: 119 (total: 2556, weekly growth: 5%)

New Snapchat subscribers: 9 (total 133, weekly growth: 8%)

New Instagram subscribers: 42 (total: 546, weekly growth: 8%)

My previous From Zero to a Million posts, in which I reveal every week how Im building and growing Hardbacon with no money:

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