Pitching is not a presentation.
It is a performance.
While preparing for our second internal pitch this week, I was reminded of a time, long, long ago, of something similar: Practicing the piano to prepare for a performance.
I would spend hours at the piano, practicing a song, over and over again, to prepare for a recital. All those hours of practice would culminate in just a few minutes in front of an audience. It always seemed unfair.
The art of performance is a combination of two things: the preparation you have done, and how you handle the nervousness. Your nerves can make you, powering the best performance ever, or break you, which is disappointing because you knew you were capable otherwise. No one sees you doing it 100 times perfectly in practice.
But nerves are good because they can drive you to perform better than you ever did when practicing. It's kind of like jazz. You never riff the best when you're alone, it's the audience's energy that drives you. This is what makes performing both enjoyable and addictive.
It took me a very long time (and another instrument) to enjoy performing. I always hated how nervous I would get leading up to a concert. I would get an excruciating feeling in the pit of my stomach and my hands would become ice cold.
On Tuesday, my gut was okay but I had ice cold hands. I had prepared well for my pitch. It was memorized and timed to be less than 3 minutes. The day before I was so wired I couldn't work on anything else. I alternated between practicing the pitch or doing mindless internet stuff. The morning of, I woke up a full hour before my alarm. This is a habit my boyfriend has when he is nervous. I seem to have picked it up too.
Ninety pitches were spread across two days. That meant forty-five pitches a day. This is a lot but at 3 minutes each it wasn't too bad. We were number 34 on day two so there was quite a lot of waiting involved.
When I went up to pitch, I began, "Hi. My name is June. And I'm co-founder of Fit with Friends."
Except that I'm not. I'm co-founder of My Elephant Brain.
Pete and I changed our idea 5 weeks ago from Fit with Friends to My Elephant Brain. But because Fit with Friends is what we got into Startup Chile with, it is forever our "project name." When they called me up to pitch, they said Fit with Friends, and I guess that's what got into my head.
I corrected myself right away, but it was pretty funny. The rest of the pitch zoomed by quickly. I think I spoke a bit faster than I intended. It was by no means the best I had practiced, but I was satisfied. Pete was amazing in getting our demo to work in so little time. It involved individuals in the room as examples of names to remember, which got people engaged, yelling out names, which was great.
We found out the results on Wednesday. We didn't make the top 20%. I was a bit disappointed but the companies that did make it are all amazing and much farther along. Most have launched and have paying or beta customers and some form of traction. I have so much to learn from them and hope to be where they are now by the end of the program.
I probably spent 15 hours preparing for the pitch. It was a good exercise in crafting our positioning for My Elephant Brain. Two half days were spent listening to everyone pitch. It was nice to re-connect everyone to their companies. There were also some great performances. Well done everybody!
We also saw Al Gore's keynote as part of Common Pitch. He didn't say anything new, but it was cool to be 30 feet away from him. And to see him for free!
High of the week: The pitch being over!
Low of the week: We're not in the top 20% but I also know we're not in the bottom 20%. :) We are focused and will keep moving forward. My goal by the end of the program: one paying customer.
Lesson learned: Winning feels good. Losing feels bad. But neither will make or break your company.
Interesting thing: I finally figured out how to eat sandwiches here. They're bigger than my face so I always avoided ordering one. But this week I ate the inside of it only, leaving the bun. It works!