My Top Tips for Pitching at ICE’ by Helen Walton, founder at Gamevy

Number 1: Commit

We weren’t even that sure if we were going to do Pitch ICE. It was a bit early for us – we only had one game ready to play and another one ‘nearly’ ready. We certainly hadn’t launched and therefore had no real numbers to speak of. In our ‘plan’ it would have been just perfect if ICE had been in June. Or July.

But that’s not how life works. And we didn’t want to wait a whole other year for ICE to come round again. So we decided to throw ourselves into it. We prioritised work – not for our launch plan – but for how to best showcase our capabilities. It was a fairly bold play, because this could have all be ‘wasted’. But in the end it paid off.

We won ICE, and from the exposure we received both there and from the press that followed, we went on to win investment and our first two customers. More importantly we made some major strategic shifts that saw us throw away almost every line of code we’d written and change our route to market and strategy. The route we chose might not have been the only one, but it would have been even more painful to make those changes when we were truly ‘ready’ several months later on.

Number 2: The Video

A good video has two purposes. First of all, this is what people who aren’t at ICE will see. This matters just as much as your actual presentation on the day. People who didn’t catch you, or who want to refresh their memories as to why you were so brilliant, will come back and re-watch it. Secondly, it forces you to clarify and determine your pitch in advance – what exactly is it that makes you so special and how can you show that visually as well as in words?

So the video is important – but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on it. We filmed and edited our video ourselves. The whole process took about two weeks and was painful mainly because of the inordinate length of time it took to render footage from our games.

There are plenty of people who can help, there’s no need to go to a company. Instead you can find freelancers who will help create a video for as little as £250 a day.

Be ruthless in writing and rewriting your script. Every point must be not only concise but also perfectly expressed. Read it aloud. An elegant sentence on the page can sound awkward when spoken. Your final script should be full of content but also sound natural and relaxed. Beware – natural and relaxed does not mean improvised – instead it is the result of rigorous and disciplined preparation.

Number 3: The Presentation

Given what I’ve just said about you won’t be surprised to hear that I am equally stern about the work that should go into preparing this.

Slides: This should go without saying, but there appear to still be some people who do not know that a large quantity of text on a slide is death.  Equally, however, people are there to hear and judge you as a leader, so don’t put on a pre-recorded video, no matter how slick.

Speech: If you are frightened of public speaking then get someone else to do it or enrol yourself into presentation bootcamp. At ICE you need big energy, a loud voice, and spectacular confidence. If you stand reading the words off your screen (or worse off the slide behind you), then you will seem uncertain and boring.

The rest: Think about what works. How will you involve the audience? How will you lift energy? What can you do that will show off your product or your idea? How can you stand out from the other presenters? What will you wear? Will just one of you present, or two? There’s no perfect answer, obviously, since your presentation must be unique to your personal style and company – but do think about it in advance.

Number 4: The Venue

ICE is noisy and busy. Speak to the organisers in advance and find out what size screen you have, what type of microphones and whether you will be able to move about or must stand behind a lectern.

If you are on early then you may have the graveyard slot. So pack out the audience with friends and supporters. A busy area attracts more people. Prompt them to laugh in the right places (there’s no need to be extreme, but one or two people chuckling and listening intently can shift the mood of the whole group).

Number 5: Think on your feet

The screen that we had for our slides was too small and no one could hear the pre-prepared music. So we cut off all audio and simply talked over the video play. We’d watched other presenters and had worked out the no one was asking questions and that the format simply wasn’t right for it – so we used our whole time-slot to pitch and then asked people to come and see us afterwards and pointed to where we’d be sitting. People found it much easier to chat to us privately and it gave a good buzz to see us surrounded with people after the pitch.

Number 6: The Network

Pitch ICE is not just about presenting or even about winning. You need to set up the meetings in advance that you want. That means working your network hard to invite potential customers or investors to turn up and meet with you there. Use linked in and social media. Tap up everyone you know already and be shameless in approaching strangers.

On the day itself take time to listen to and speak to the other start-ups. There might be ways you can work together or help one another out with introductions. Oh yes – and come and say hi to Gamevy! We’ll be presenting on Thursday and we’re also exhibiting at Stand N2-380…

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