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6 Proven Ways to Win a Cannabusiness Pitch Contest

An insider's guide to what works and what fails when presenting your company to potential investors.

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“Send me your pitch deck,” is something every entrepreneur hears hundreds of times throughout the fundraising process. With good reason -- no matter what your business, you need to present your idea in a direct and simple document that investors can review quickly.

Peter Vogel

But not all pitch decks are created equal.

For example, if you get invited to actually present live at an event or a pitch contest, you'll need to make some changes.

I’ve run pitch contests across the United States from Miami to San Francisco. During that time, I’ve reviewed hundreds of pitch decks, and I've seen the same mistakes made over and over again. Here are six tips for what to do -- and not do.

Related: 6 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make Pitching Their Cannabis Company

1. Don’t forget the "why?"

One common mistake pitchers make is to immediately jump into describing their amazing product or business idea without any context. It’s vital to give some background and identify "the problem” or the reason your product needs to exist, first.

When you set the stage and describe the need for your product first, people understand immediately that you are providing a needed service and your business exist for a reason.

Let slide #2 offer “the solution”, which is you and your business. 

2. Ditch the famous person quotes

No one cares what Warren Buffett said about productivity. A quote from a well-respected expert, who has no connection to your company, doesn’t add credibility. It wastes about 30 seconds of valuable time.

Instead, use that 30 seconds to show the audience and judges how passionate you are about your own product. You’re the one steering the ship… not Warren Buffett.

3. Avoid videos

Typically, pitch contests allow contestants anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. If you use a minute or two to show an explanation video, you likely eliminate 30 to 50 percent of the time you have to pitch.

Judges and audiences want to hear from you in person, not from a pre-recorded video. You’re the star and they have to believe in you, not just the product you're offering.

Also, videos tend to have technical problems with either slow streaming, unclear audio, or low volume. This can be very distracting and may waste even more time. It’s just not worth the risk.

4. Pass on periods

Having a lot of text in live pitch presentation is a huge no-no. You want the audience listening to you, not reading from slides. Keep your text short and concise. 

An easy rule of thumb to follow: If you have a period on a slide, you probably have a full sentence and it needs to be shortened to just a few words. Eliminate all periods and you’re forced to remove all the sentences and paragraphs.

Related: 6 Ways Women Can Raise Cannabis Capital

5. Only one to two ideas per slide

The general adage, “Keep it simple, stupid” is relevant to building a great pitch deck. Due to the time constraints, it’s really important to keep each slide devoted to one idea (or two, at max). Keep it simple for the audience so they’re not wading through four headings and six icons on every slide.

Tell your story by moving from slide to slide quickly. Keep the flow straight-forward and simple, so that the audience can easily follow along a logical storyline. You don't want them to have to figure it out. 

6. Think big, bold images

Some people in the audience may be sitting considerably far away, so the images in your presentation need to be big and not super detailed. Simple big pictures are best and preferably left at just one a slide.

A tip for those thinking about using graphs: Almost no one will be able to read the numbers, so graphs are really only effective at showing a growth curve. You’ll need to share any important numbers verbally -- it’s more effective for people to hear them spoken anyway, especially if they're showcasing impressive results.

Keep these tips in mind when prepping for your next pitch contest and you’ll have a head-start over the rest of the pack.

Related: How To Convince Cannabis Investors to Give You Money