You’ve got a killer booth design, booked your plane tickets, and ordered your branded lanyards and logo notebooks for your conference giveaway. Now you need to nail your business pitch. Conferences are a great chance to connect with potential customers and investors. However, you often have just a few seconds to grab their attention. Here are nine tips for nailing your business pitch at conferences:
Keep it super short.
Your elevator pitch should be incredibly short — only 20 to 30 seconds maximum. The point of a pitch isn’t to give a comprehensive picture of your business; it’s just to get listeners interested enough that they want to hear more. You shouldn’t give everything away — in fact, you want to give just enough detail that people will be interested in hearing more and withhold the rest. Practice your pitch until everyone attending the conference can keep it under the 30-second mark.
Have your follow-up ready.
Like sales, pitching is a numbers game. Many people won’t care to hear more after your initial elevator pitch because they’re just not a good fit for your business. However, some of your listeners will be eager to hear more beyond the pitch, so you must be ready to answer questions or segue into a more detailed, longer pitch. Unfortunately, too many people polish their pitch until it’s perfect but aren’t prepared to keep talking beyond the 30 seconds — don’t be one of them and squander your opportunity!
Be prepared to discuss competitors.
One of the first questions that potential customers or investors will have is how your business is different from competitors (and “we don’t have any real competitors” is not a good answer). Indeed, many people attend conferences and trade shows to compare similar businesses in person. Know your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses so that you can intelligently discuss your business’s place in the market and what advantages you offer.
Demonstrate your product.
Talk is cheap, but product demonstrations are worth their weight in gold. A solid pitch is great, but customers and investors will be even more impressed if you can demonstrate your products and services on the spot. If possible, you should have a product or a prototype in full working order that you can display at the conference (not a video or a mockup). Hosting regular product demonstrations will also help draw visitors to your booth and potentially lead to some customer connections that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
Prep your entire booth staff.
If you are a small company, you might be all hands on deck at the conference, meaning not everyone staffing the booth will have presentation or pitching experience. Even if they are in charge of engineering or software development, everyone at the booth needs to be able to deliver your elevator pitch, discuss the basics of your company, and hand out your food promo items. They should also know whom they can refer visitors to if they have complicated follow-up questions.
Plan for technical difficulties.
Most business pitches rely on at least a PowerPoint, and some use other technology. While these can be useful tools, they also present the opportunity for technical glitches to derail your pitch. Make sure you have multiple copies of the presentation on different devices—pack charging cables and cell phone charger promo items for all of them. Don’t rely on the conference room to have the dongles and cables you need; bring your own and a backup in case one goes missing.
Know the people you want to talk to.
At a conference, you will be talking to a wide variety of people who walk up to your booth. There’s no denying that some unexpected yet beneficial connections can come from that. However, you should also know who will be at the conference and make up a list of people and companies you want to talk to. Conferences are vital networking opportunities and are often expensive to attend, so you don’t want to waste your chance. Try to schedule meetings ahead of time when possible and carve out time to pitch your company to the most important players.
Work the room first.
Sometimes, you will need to go right into your pitch, such as when you’re participating in a pitch event. However, when possible, it’s nice to warm up your audience with some light or humorous small talk to get a read on the room. This will help you tailor your pitch to your audience and also give you both some buffer time instead of jumping right into the hard sell. People are often more receptive to your message if you show interest in them first instead of trying to jump right into the sales pitch, so don’t be afraid to work the room and hand out some promotional fidget toys or other memorable giveaways.
Leave time for questions.
If you have a scheduled pitch or meeting, leave some time at the end for questions, even if your slot is only five minutes long. Questions will show off the grasp of your business and also give you a way to gauge if an investor or customer is a good fit for your company. Alongside your pitch, you should prepare a list of common follow-up questions and prepare answers to them so you will be ready for the Q&A.
What are your other expert tips for nailing a business pitch at a conference? Let us know in the comments below!