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How to bounce back from a bad pitch

How to bounce back from a bad pitch

Table of Contents

Not every pitch is perfect. We have all been there, honest! Ask any founder and, almost all, will share their worst pitch experience when they just wished the floor would open and provide a quick exit.

As a busy startup founder, it is all too easy to be stretched in too many directions and find you haven’t had the time you need to prepare for a pitch as fully as you would have liked.

Or perhaps your nerves get the better of you and you stutter and stammer your way through the pitch. Or maybe you were just suffering from lack of sleep (and concentration) because your six-month-old woke you up early that morning. It happens.

Don’t beat yourself up.

The key thing is to learn from the experience and move on. Don’t let one bad pitch throw you off your stride. There are other pitches to be completed so recovery is key.

So how do you recover, learn what needs to be learnt and move on? The first thing is to focus on what went well.

Find the silver lining

Even in a bad pitch, there will be good things. Latch onto these and make sure you don’t jettison the good with the bad! For example, did you feel there were moments in the pitch when you were more confident, or when your pitch seemed to be landing well?

Think back to those moments and try to identify what made these strong moments and how you can ensure you continue to make these work for you in future pitches.

Ask for feedback

Often we are harder on ourselves than the audience listening to us. It is important to get a second opinion from others who heard your pitch. If you can, ask the organiser of the pitch event to give you feedback on what they thought went well, as well as what needed improvement.

Better still, follow up with any other startups who were pitching alongside you and ask them for feedback too. If you pitched on a video call, see if you can get a copy of the recording and go through this with a pitch coach. Put your emotions aside and objectively mark your performance.

Perfect your presentation 

Using a scorecard to review your content and your performance can be a helpful way to ensure you don’t miss anything. I like to use the 7 Essentials of a Successful Pitch to guide my preparation of my pitch content. Check out Vestd's free pitch deck template too.

But you will also want to think about how you present.

For example, building storytelling into your pitch can help the pitch flow, and help you remember the points you want to make. Think about what you wear and how you stand too. You need to feel comfortable in front of lots of people.

And think about your voice. Did you speak clearly enough to be heard? Did you vary your tone to maintain interest? Did you show passion and excitement so that people could engage with you?

Pay attention to their questions

The questions you were asked after your pitch can be telling. It could be that you missed some vital information in your pitch, in which case you can address this next time.

Alternatively, you might feel you had answered the points that were raised as questions, which suggests there was a misunderstanding in how your content landed with your audience. A sure sign that you have work to do to improve either what you are saying or the order in which you are presenting your points.

You may even feel that it was the question-and-answer part of the pitch that let you down. If this is the case, capture all the questions you were asked - and add a few more of your own - and prepare answers to these questions so that you are more prepared and confident next time.

Own the space

There are occasions when a pitch goes wrong because of the way you were introduced, the expectation of the room being different to yours or even something about the physical layout of the room.

For example, if you are asked to use a microphone to pitch and you haven’t spoken into a mic before, it can be a very unnerving experience. Whilst it may be harder for you to influence these issues, it is important to reflect on how they impacted on your pitch and how you can mitigate against this in the future.

Think about the questions you can ask of a pitch organiser in advance of a pitch which will help you understand what is expected and pick up any “housekeeping” arrangements that may need to be adapted to allow you to be at your best.

Don't give up

More than anything, recognise that past experience is not an indicator of future performance. You can do things differently - better - next time. Believe in yourself, take on board the learnings and move on.

Past experience is not an indicator of future performance.

Pitching is part of raising investment so it’s important you practise, improve and have faith in your abilities. After all, if you don’t why should an investor?


Written by Hatty Fawcett.

Hatty Fawcett is the founder of Focused For Business and runs a funding accelerator programme that has raised over £5m in equity investment for the startups who’ve been through the programme in the last 12 months.

Hatty believes startup investment should be available to everyone and the process shouldn’t be over-complicated or unnecessarily time-consuming. She is known for her work with underrepresented founders.

Hatty has been recognised as Enterprise Nation Adviser of the Year 22/23 for Finance and Funding and is a finalist in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2023.

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