How to Screw Up Your Pitch

How to Screw Up Your Pitch


Pitching your company, idea or sales deck to anyone is tough. When your business is at stake it becomes even more difficult. And when you’re ill-prepared, your pitch deck is sub-par, or you haven’t rehearsed, you can end a presentation before you get too far into it.

There are some pretty simple things you can do to destroy your pitch before you even get in the room. Try to avoid these mistakes at your next pitch.

Not rehearsing enough

There are few things more frustrating in a pitch than watching the back of the presenter’s head while they read their pitch deck slide-by-slide, word-for-word back to the audience.

We’ve all seen it at almost any corporate presentation that was sprung on the poor presenter just hours before the big meeting. The person stands off to the side and looks up and over their shoulder at their ill-prepared slides.

Related: 9 Elements of an Irresistible Business Pitch

Top tip: Rehearsing your pitch allows you the freedom in the pitch to ad-lib and interact with the audience as you move through your presentation.

Not researching your audience

It’s extremely important to understand who you’re pitching to. If this is a pitch to an investor or a group of investors, then it’s a good idea to know who they have invested in before, how much money they usually dish out, and to what kind of companies.

Top tip: A simple Google search will get you started. Try contact companies that have received funding to find out more about the investor.

Repeating your slides

Slides are meant to be a visual aid to a presentation, not the presentation itself.

If you’re pitching in a sales meeting or an investor pitch and the best you’ve got is the text on the slides behind you, you’ve got a problem.

Top tip: Presenting is an art and needs to be clearly thought out and planned. You need to have engaging content that you’re talking about as well as interesting additions to your talk behind you on the slides. Don’t put up ten bullet points, two sentences long and proceed to read each of those points.

Missing the mood of the room

It’s great to go into a pitch with a plan, but sometimes plans need to change or be thrown out of the window completely. Some of the worst pitches that I’ve experienced involved a presenter who ploughed forward through their pitch in spite of having lost the attention of the room at slide two.

Top tip: If you lose the room you need to do something to grab their attention back. Stop your presentation. Close your laptop and engage with the most distracted of the audience. People will remember you for being different and that’s better than forgetting you for being the same.

Not having a plan

I’ve often gone into a pitch wanting to get out of it whatever was on offer. This approach can sometimes work, but it’s a good idea to have an exact idea of what you want from the people you’re pitching to.

Entering a pitch with the hopes of a ‘relationship’ is broad, open-ended and probably means another meeting just to decide how you can work with the people you’ve already got in the room.

Related: 9 Tips for Winning Investors in the 5 Minutes You Have Their Attention

Top tip: If it’s an investment pitch, have a slide that specifies why you’re in front of them, what you intend to do with the money that you raise, and what they’ll get out of the deal. If it’s a business development pitch, it’s imperative that you’ve thought about the relationship with the organisation you are talking to and have a plan of how you’d like to work with them.

Pitching to the wrong people

Sometimes it’s better not to pitch than to pitch to the wrong people.

Yes, on occasion the wrong people can put you in touch with the right people but ultimately that just means another pitch and starting at ground zero. It also means they can give you the wrong feedback that will throw out your entire approach and goals.

Top tip: Make sure you know your audience and that you’re happy with who is in the presentation or pitch. If you aren’t, rather propose a reschedule of your pitch until all the relevant parties are able to attend.

Getting it wrong

The best pitches are memorable. You want to grab attention, not give every detail of your business while the room falls asleep.

Related: 2 Minutes with SA’s Top Entrepreneurs

Nicholas Haralambous
Founder of the luxury sock company, , CEO and co-founder of Motribe before the company was successfully acquired by Mxit in August 2012. Listen to Nic’s new podcast, The Honest Entrepreneurs Club, by going to or download it on iTunes or Google Play.