How to Maximize your pitch.

How to Maximize Your Pitch

For Entrepreneurs UPMC Enterprises

Scenario: As a health care startup company founder or entrepreneur, you and your team sent a pitch deck to a health care innovator. You are looking to raise funds for an early-stage funding round, and you are looking for them to partner with you on your journey. You receive a call from someone at the organization who wants to set up a meeting with you and your team to talk in greater detail. You have just been invited to pitch. Now what? What questions are they going to ask? What should you come prepared with? What are they looking for?

By definition, a pitch refers to presenting business ideas to another party. As an entrepreneur, you will likely encounter many opportunities to sell yourself and your ideas. Beyond advancing your career, knowing how to build and deliver a pitch can help you gain customers, partners, and investors for a business. When you pitch effectively, you can motivate and persuade your audience to follow your idea and make it a reality.

In this article, we take a step past building a pitch deck. We sat down with Dr. Rob Hartman, Senior Director on the Translational Sciences team, and Debashish Sasmal, Senior Product Manager on the Digital Solutions team, to discuss how to create an effective pitch. Both Rob and Deb are experts in developing and reviewing startup pitches. We’ll tap their years of experience both within and outside of UPMC.

Q: Is there a significant difference between a pitch deck and the pitch itself?

Rob: Yes, a pitch deck is used to support the pitch; it should minimize wordiness and clearly illustrate important concepts and data points. An overview deck, usually sent prior to a pitch, should include more text to guide and inform the reader to communicate key points per slide. In both types of decks, I find it helpful for entrepreneurs to put a short, takeaway phrase on each slide in a consistent manner so that the narrative comes through.

Debashish: A pitch is a concise and crisp narrative accompanied by a broader and detailed deck (the pitch deck) compellingly conveying their story. I have seen entrepreneurs use the pitch to anchor the audience and use the pitch deck to drive an engaging discussion customizing their delivery and catering to the audience’s interests. Since we also look for more details like validation points, partnerships, business plans, future projections, investment needs, etc., during our initial conversation, we usually find them in a detailed overview deck or, more often, an extended pitch deck consistent with the messaging from the pitch.

Q: When you sit down to listen to a pitch, are there specific things that you look for?

Rob: First off, I look for a clear understanding of the problem or unmet need. From there, I want to see the long-term vision and short-to-mid-term plan. I’m listening for soft signals of diligence, humility, leadership, and commitment. I like to hear good awareness of the market and competing companies and approaches. The composition of the management team, the board, scientific and clinical advisors, and any existing investors can be extremely helpful in adding credibility.

Debashish: One of the first things we try to understand is the problem and its opportunity size. The second thing is the solution, its unique value proposition, and its fit in the UPMC realm. Understanding the existing partnerships, scientific or clinical validation points, and the high-level revenue model and growth plan follows. The leadership team, the board composition, and the investor syndicate help add credibility as well. We keep evaluating opportunities to engage in a mutually beneficial strategic partnership where we can lean in and help entrepreneurs/leaders grow and propel their innovations, ultimately creating value for UPMC and helping deliver better care for the patients we serve.

Q: How important is presentation skill? Is it more about the substance? Is it a combination of both?

Rob: Presentation skill is much less important than the substance of the pitch. Delivery without substance is not worth anything. Substance with poor delivery may be helped, but it certainly casts doubt on the management team (e.g., their ability to persuade future investors and business development partners).

Debashish: I would say a great presentation needs to be backed by a good delivery that adapts the narrative according to the audience you’re engaging with to make an immediate impact. An excellent presentation with all the necessary details and a well-articulated and thought-out flow can act as a savior, especially when an entrepreneur is presenting to a very diverse audience. We often bring clinical leaders, business leaders, physicians, payer partners, and other subject matter experts together to a pitch, where a detailed presentation can help answer questions from their perspectives. However, if it’s just a beautiful presentation with no actual data or evidence to support the hook, it loses touch immediately.

Q: What are the Do’s and Don’ts during a pitch?

Rob: Do – be sure to state what your ask is, what you plan to do with the proceeds/capabilities/partnership, and how you’ll leverage that to reach an important inflection point.

Don’t -misread the level of your audience. Don’t think you’re educating listeners who are already well acquainted with the space or go into a technical depth that they could never follow.

Debashish: Do – Be flexible. This goes back to reading the room and knowing your audience. Adapt your pitch delivery to whom you’re pitching to. A clinical leader may ask the same question as an executive leader, but that clinical leader is focused on different data points and is looking for quite different reasoning on why they should find your pitch compelling.

Don’t – Overinflate forecasts or data points. We want you to be realistic in your data, in your forecasts, and in your estimations with a structured plan to achieve the targets.

Q: What are some of the questions commonly asked when an entrepreneur is pitching?

Rob: What are the key differentiating features of your approach? Why did you select the chosen clinical area(s) or indication(s)? How does your approach compare to standard-of-care or emerging approaches? How predictive are preclinical models and what toxicity/safety concerns are you focused on? What challenges will you face in clinical development?

Debashish: What is the unique value proposition of your solution, and how would it improve the delivery of care or improve health care inefficiencies either directly or indirectly? How is the product/solution positioned in the market and its reach? Who are the strategic partners, and what are the validation points? What is the forecasted revenue, the high-level business plan, and the operating model? What is the capital ask, the timelines, and the details around proceeds? Finally, we try to understand what their expectations are. Why are you interested in forming a strategic partnership with UPMC?

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur about to pitch to you, what would it be?

Rob: Don’t think you need to exaggerate or assume an affected tone – just tell your story.

Debashish: First, know that we have the utmost respect for every entrepreneur and industry leader. Our job is to have a healthy skepticism and validate everything before we can partner and lean in. My advice is to have a deep understanding of your business and the market you operate in, the challenges/risks you face, and how you plan to overcome/mitigate them.

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