A few weeks ago a co-worker sent me an instant message:

“You’ve got to watch this business plan pitch. It’s crazy!”

Of course I clicked and watched it.

It only takes a few minutes before the “disbelief” starts. I’ve seen professionals shun slick PowerPoint slides to use handwritten or even marked up on whiteboard slides instead. So a handwritten slide deck didn’t immediately make an impact on me, but several things immediately made me stop and wonder what was going on.

The presenter, while energetic and dedicated to her subject, immediately shows us several facts which should throw big red flags. From incorrectly spelling her own name, to the percentage numbers on her “Air is” slide. (75+21+1+6 does not in fact equal 100), to the fact that she is willing to go to Atlantis to obtain this precious, magical air.

We know now that the pitch was part of a hoax for April Fools day, but let’s take a look at what she – as a business plan pitch person – got right and what she got wrong.

Mistake: Her target market is everyone. While that might be true, or you might really believe it’s true, it’s generally not wise to say so in your plan or pitch. Saying “everyone” tells me you’re lazy and haven’t really thought about who your customer is, which translates to wasting your time and your investors’ money on those not likely to buy. So slim it down. Pick a particular demographic that is more likely to buy than the others and start there.

Mistake: Not knowing what you need. In her investment pitch, she says she needs a team of “_________ specialists”. Point in her favor that she knows the company has a hole in the team, but to not know what type of specialist she’s going to need shows a lack of understanding of the “how” in her business plan. If you point out the positions in your management team that are not filled, it shows me that you at least know you need to fill them. As an investor, I will notice your company is lacking a VP of Marketing with experience in your field, but when you don’t mention it, I’ll wonder if YOU know that.

Mistake: The numbers don’t add up. I mentioned above that Rachel’s percentages don’t add up. But beyond that, make sure you check all your numbers. And make sure those numbers are in the right place and are correct. For instance, Cash Flow: this table tracks the cash balance (your checking account) and cash flow (how much that balance changes) from month to month and annually. The cash balance should never be negative; if your cash balance is less than zero, your checks will bounce. And if your business plan shows several months of a negative cash balance, I want the name of your bank, because my bank doesn’t allow me to keep spending money I don’t have. For months. And months.

Share The Air

So, here are some positive points from her pitch:

Good! Be unique. Admit it, if you had been in the audience, you would have remembered her pitch long after the event was over. So that take away is ‘make a lasting impression with your pitch’. The handwritten slides were memorable. Granted, there were several things wrong with that option, but if you watched 30 pitches in a day, would you remember the one with the hand drawn pictures of mountains and flowers, or the PowerPoint slide that had a picture of Mt Hood and a field of daisies?

Good! Emotionally connecting to the audience. As with any good story, you need to make what you’re saying matter to your audience. Whether you bring them in with humor, show them your passion or joy at using or participating with your subject matter, or make them a part of the demonstration, making them invested in what you are doing will ensure they become much more likely to want more.

Good! Have a real website. Real business plan pitch or not, she had an actual website. It has a “coming soon” on the front page but it’s real. This lends credibility to her business. Talking about a website without actually owning it shows a lack of attention to detail. You can mention having an eventual Web presence without naming an actual website name. That is much better than claiming ownership of www.taco.com for your taco stand, only to have your audience Google it later and find it belongs to a technical advisors company, and probably always will.

Even knowing the whole pitch was fake, here’s what did pique my interest: the Web app she mentions towards the end of her presentation. What a fun app idea! I immediately wanted to share that information with my friends. To me, the idea of marking the places I’ve breathed is much more quirky and fun than checking in via foursquare at the corner Starbucks for the 30th time.

Real or not, it was enjoyable to watch and has given us here at the office a lot to talk about.

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