Creating the Perfect Project Pitch

The PHDA has hosted dozens of Pitch Days in which prospective teams boil down complex problem areas, technical solutions, and methodologies into a crisp and compelling presentation. As with most pitch presentations, our audience includes attendees with varied expertise and backgrounds. Creating the “perfect pitch” is no easy task! In this blog, we are sharing some of the most helpful tips we have to offer!

  1. Avoid being a “hammer looking for a nail”. If you are using an exciting new technique or method, make sure that you explain why it offers a better solution than the current standard. It’s always interesting to hear about the latest and greatest techniques, but making the connection to how it would fuel a better outcome will help your audience see exactly what you’re bringing to the table.
  2. Learn what you can about your audience ahead of time. The contents, organization, and style of your pitch will likely depend on the purpose and audience. Find out what you can about the people who will be in the (virtual) room so that you can tailor the pitch to their level of understanding and goals.
  3. Include a clear “ask” to the audience. If you are looking for capital, include a dollar amount or range. If you are looking for collaborators, consider listing the type of person you would like to work with. If you are looking for guidance, list specific areas or questions that you would want to have help in answering.
  4. Backup or supplementary slides are great! If you think the audience is likely to ask a question, consider having a slide ready to share the answer – especially if the answer is complex or would benefit from a visual. This not only helps with answering the question in the moment but also shows that you are aware of and anticipating common questions.
  5. Follow up, if appropriate. A brief “thank you” email with any relevant follow-ups can convey professionalism and engagement.
  6. Of course, remember to follow the basics of any good presentation – make sure colors are easily discernable, avoid walls of text, and stick to any time limits – and try to have some fun! Showing that you are passionate and excited about your work can make a world of difference!

As part of the PHDA, Pitt’s Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (CCA) and CMU’s Center for Machine Learning and Health (CMLH), provide hands-on guidance for teams as they prepare pitches. Here are some of their suggestions:

Heather Johnson bio photoHeather Johnson, CMLH:

Two things that I like to see in the PHDA project pitches are optimizing the timing and telling a good story. Optimizing your time with the audience during the pitch is essential so that you don’t run over the allotted time. Respecting your investors’ valuable time should always be in the front of your mind. Moving at a steady pace without rushing will enable you to engage with your audience without overburdening them with too many facts. Most importantly, be sure to leave time for questions! A memorable pitch recognizes that a conversation is needed if a person is going to invest in your project.

Tell the “what if we could” story NOW. Make clear the leap from science to practice in your story. Put the innovation on the ground, in the hands of users, and in the minds of the audience. You want them to filter the rest of the argument through the lens of this story. Don’t get hung up in facts, figures, and spreadsheets when making the pitch, as this information will often fail to capture your investors’ attention. The pitch is your opportunity to speak excitedly about your project to a target audience, and hopefully, the investors will feel that excitement too.

Kathrin Gassei bio photoKathrin Gassei, CCA:

Know your problem! This sounds obvious, but having a well-formulated problem statement that describes, in a short, brief sentence or two, the clinical unmet need and a few key problem characteristics is very powerful. This will help you to focus the audience’s attention and set the stage for the solution you are going to present. You want the potential investor to care as much about the problem as you do, so the problem should be relatable, tangible, and significant to understand in a short period of time.

Know your “ask”! Be specific about the next steps that you want to take and the resources you need to successfully achieve the deliverables.

Be prepared to negotiate your approach and scope – especially if you are coming from academic research and are new to applying for more translational or commercialization focused research funding. Be prepared to get asked about intermediate endpoints or alternative approaches you could include into your work. Be open-minded to learn from the investors’ experience and key opinion leaders’ knowledge in areas outside of the basic research realm. This can lead to very impactful new directions and yield great results towards the actual application of research in the real world.

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