How do I incorporate conflicting feedback into my pitch?

When you are getting ready to present your startup pitch to investors or to the audience and judges of a business plan competition, you will likely be testing it with lots of people to get feedback and to polish the content and delivery for the pitch. You will almost certainly get conflicting feedback for your startup pitch from different people. The reality is that there is more than one good way to do anything and people will all tell you the best way they know, and they don’t all like the same things. How do you sieve through this confusing set of feedback and improve your pitch in a sane manner?

First of all, you must understand that all this feedback is for you to interpret. However you respect the person giving you the feedback, you are the one who is pitching, and therefore you must make the final decisions on how you tell your story. Don’t feel like you must take all the feedback everyone gave you and integrate it into your pitch (remember the Aesop’s Fable about the miller, his son and the donkey?)

Second, you will get a lot of frequently asked questions that need to be addressed, or recurring existential questions about some aspect of your business that worries everybody who hears about it for the first time. If you find that you have landed on a hot button everybody asks you about, that’s a sign you might want to find a way to weave it into your narrative so you pre-empt this worry.

For instance, if you are running an operationally intensive business and everyone expresses concern about your operating costs, you can make an illustration to explain how you are handling things and how much things cost. You may not have the right numbers but you will have demonstrated that you understand that this is a key factor that will affect the success or failure of your enterprise, and you will have shown the audience that you have a thoughtful approach to addressing this issue.

You would also want to have backup materials in the appendix if the audience should press on and ask additional questions – the appendix is a great way to demonstrate that you have done a full analysis on something, at a level of detail that is too deep to include in the main storyline.

Feedback and advice is cheap for your friends and mentors to provide. You are the one who has to run with the decisions and make your business work. Being smart about what to incorporate and how to incorporate it will make your pitch stronger without detracting from your ability to execute the presentation and tell a tightly integrated coherent story.


This article is reprinted with permission from Elaine Chen's blog post on the same topic.

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