I was reminded recently about the importance of competitions for honing not only your pitch but your business and impact models for your social venture.
Some believe that these events are a waste of valuable time. I don’t agree. The competition is what forces the entrepreneurs to go beyond what they think they’re capable of doing because they have to stand up in public for what they think. Good mentoring alone is not sufficient. The pressure of competition forces performance.
In every entrepreneurial program I’ve taught, I see that most participants do not start to think deeply about their venture until they’re forced to communicate it in a pitch in front of others. Until that pressure point is applied, the learning is simply an intellectual exercise.
I saw this clearly demonstrated two weeks ago as I worked with the 8 social ventures who were selected to compete in a pitch competition to join the first cohort of communityBUILD’s Social Venture Pipeline. This is an 8-month combined Accelerator and Incubator that provides an incredible breadth of supports and education.
The 8 finalists, selected from an application group of 26, endured an intense regimen over 5 days to prepare them for the pitch competition. We provided them a 1/2 day workshop on effective pitching along with a pitch template that they worked on. A ventureLAB mentor spent time one-on-one with each venture to improve the pitch. Then the ventures had to pitch twice in the same day, once to a judging panel and once to an audience.
There result? There was a clear improvement in each venture’s ability to coherently articulate their business and impact models and connect with the audience. There was an initial improvement after the mentoring session when they pitched to the judges in the morning. What was really interesting, however, is that most ventures improved their pitches for their second pitch in the afternoon, with just an hour or two to work on them. The pressure of performing made a big difference.