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Northern Ireland entrepreneur Ciaran Larkin's top tips for pitching your way to success

Inventor and entrepreneur Ciaran Larkin has shared his top tips for budding business owners when preparing for a pitch.

1. Stick to the essentials

In my experience, less is more. The classic term is an “elevator pitch” – imagine if you had literally 30 seconds with the key person you want to chat to – you aren’t going to want to waste time.  Once you’ve determined the message you want to convey, you can go into more detail such as your experience thus far, where you are at now, and what you foresee in your future.

I’d definitely recommend adding a little bit of your personality and even humour by sharing some personal anecdotes. For instance, in my pitch I showed how I used to turn soup cans into movie-inspired creations and that alone was one of the things that made me stand out from everyone else. I find people like to hear this kind of stuff as it instils their confidence.

For the most part, keep it top-line, snappy and clear and focus on where you’re going so investors are excited to go on that journey too.

You are pitching yourself as much as you are pitching your product - I honestly went in with the intention of pitching a particular new toy, but as it turns out it was me who they were more impressed with.

2. Deliver the goods

It’s not just what you say that is important, but also how you say it. Be confident and clear in your delivery, keeping your sentences short and snappy and the focus on that key message that you want to convey. Over-complicated, lengthy sentences will make it hard for your audience to stay engaged. I’d also recommend limiting the jargon and buzzwords – you don’t want to sound like everyone else that has pitched that day.

Visual aids are a great way to add some colour to your presentation and they help your audience understand your ideas better. They are particularly useful to me as not everyone knows what a superhero costume made out of scrap metal looks like.

You can never practice too much – I had my pitch prepared and rehearsed multiple times every day for two months leading up to the big day.”

3. Authenticity is everything

As daunting and nerve-wracking as a pitch can be, it’s important to stay true to you. Be upfront about your experience. Don’t lie about your successes, connections or expectations. The room will appreciate Q&A: Northern Ireland inventor Ciaran Larkin talks top secret work with US company Hasbroyour openness and respect that you have be honest with them. And if it doesn’t go so well, at least you’ll know you didn’t sell out.

Rather than rely on computers, I build my prototypes and masterpieces the old-fashioned way. I use hammers and Dremel tools mostly and although not 100% of my materials are recycled, I try to reuse scrap metal where and when I can – this is what I enjoy doing and this isn’t going to change.

4. Go to the right people

There is no point putting effort into a pitch, if you’re pitching to the wrong people. It’s useful to decide what you want to achieve and who can help you to achieve it, before you enter into the pitch process. I knew from the outset I would have to focus on international markets, and so I had to put a lot of work into developing my offering to set it apart. I made a list of the top five companies and people I wanted to work with and went from there. I put my effort into getting a meeting with at least one of them in my first year – and I did.

I was fortunate that those I pitched to understood what I wanted to offer. But beware – some people may try to push you down a different path but always trust your own feeling over everything else. If you want to do something unique and a bit different to the norm, you have to be prepared to work hard. When you feel like you can’t go on anymore, keep going. That’s what makes the difference between making it and having to give up.

5. Listen up!

Remember you’re not the smartest person in the room. The people you are presenting to can provide a wealth of knowledge and experience. If they offer you advice, take it because it will be invaluable along the way.

  • To be in with a chance to attend ‘Whiskey and Invention’ and hear Ciaran’s inspiring story, visit answerthecall.co.uk and register at the events section.

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