Don’t pitch perfect
This post was originally written for the Uutisraivaaja Media Innovation Competition blog.
It is now exactly one year and two weeks since we founded Frameright. We totally missed that special 1-year mark, so no celebrations yet. Back then, getting into the Uutisraivaaja finals was the last push for us to take the leap and make Frameright official. One year has gone by very fast, learning something new every day.
One of the several things we have been learning is pitching. Yes, that cheesy thing that everyone is doing at startup events. It might look easy, but the reality is very different. At least for me. The strictly limited time has to include everything: problem, solution, product, (huge) market and introducing your amazing team. This should all be delivered with informative and visual slides along with controlled body language and credible voice. Usually you hear a list of things on how you should be and what not do on the stage. This usually ends with an advice “but just be yourself”. Hell yes!
Already before founding Frameright I have knowingly tried to put myself in front of people. Looking for trouble in very uncomfortable zones. I am still in the very beginnings, even a microphone feels scary. Really, it is a device that makes my voice louder and handshake even more visible. And then there are the staring eyeballs on faces that usually do not smile or react.
Telling stories is difficult and doing that in a foreign language even more so. But together with Ilkka we have improved a lot. Last autumn we still had to have little brochure with us as crutches. It was helpful especially in a loud environment to explain quickly what we do. But now suddenly we both feel we don’t need it anymore. We have finally found a way how to verbally describe what we do.
Our paper crutches.
Pitching is not only about presenting on stage. It is also every smalltalk you do at the events. Because talking about what we do is one of the fundamental aspects of running a startup we decided to invest on a private pitch training. In November we visited Gleb Maltsev in Tallinn. He really pushed us to our limits. The very uncomfortable two day sessions was definitely worth it. He could bring out emotions and fears and we really got personal. Now in Hamburg as part of the Next Media Accelerator we’ve had Bianca Praetorius giving us a workshop about pitching and storytelling. She had an amazing energy and very good insights on how to engage the audience. We also had Dr. Thomas A. Coucoulis, AKA “Rampenpfau” or “stage peacock”, analysing our pitches. He is specialised in techniques to conquer stage fright through finding different sides of yourself, selecting the suitable ones and boosting them up as a role for the presentation. This way you can still be yourself and feel natural. Most importantly he emphasises on how the pitch should not be perfect in order to be successful.
I think the paradox with preparing for a pitch or any other presentation is that the preparation is the key. But heavy procrastination kicks in when your are preparing for a situation that you do not want to be in. This vicious circle results in a mediocre presentation from which you collect bad experiences. My strategy was to first practice with cards. I mean, I could not even remember my own name on stage at first. However, first dealing with the issue of being in front of people helped me build trust in myself so I could move to remembering the pitch. There is still a long road ahead, but I am happy for the first steps taken. Still shaky, but slowly more confident.
Yes, I had to have my own name written down to be able to start.
In the end what keeps us motivated is reminding ourselves about why we are building Frameright. We want to impact visual culture and it is up to us to make this happen and spread the word. There is no better feeling than a room full of people who did not come to look for what we are selling and they leave with a new need that we can help with.