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March 02, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Vol Court Session #4: Tips on pitching for cash

Wednesday evening was the fourth session of the five-part “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition,” and the focus was appropriately on preparing for next week’s pitch competition where $3,000 is up for grabs.

Who better to offer pitch advice for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) students than Chris McAdoo, the always energetic Director of Strategy and Engagement for the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. He clearly brought his A game to the one-hour session as evidenced by this animated picture from Wednesday night.

“Always assume everything will go wrong,” McAdoo told the students as some technical difficulties briefly delayed his presentation that featured content from a 2012 presentation developed by the Nashville Entrepreneur Center titled “The Investable SlideDeckTM.”

Reminding the attendees that building a company means “you’re selling every day,” McAdoo said their first goal in the 90-second pitches that they will give next week is to keep the eyeballs of the judges on them.

Robyn Geron, Director of Operations for UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, had displayed a slide that suggested the optimal allocation of the 90 seconds the students have for their pitches by category, and McAdoo discussed those elements in greater detail.

  • “As much as you love it (your idea), does anyone else care? Why now?” This was a way to emphasize the importance of product market fit and succinctly outlining the problem that is being addressed, the target audience that the solution serves, and the value that it brings to the target market.
  • McAdoo provided an example of the judicious use of charts to describe everything from the ideal customer to distribution and marketing strategies. On the latter point, he reemphasized the importance of “understanding your target market.”
  • What about competition? McAdoo said the focus of their presentation should be on why your product is better, not why the products of your competitors are worse. “Treat them (the competition) with empathy and kindness,” he advised.
  • Other key elements to be included in a pitch include a description of the team, financial projections, status of the idea or product, intellectual property to the extent there is any, and timelines over the next few years.
  • His final advice was to “make the ask” which translates into outlining how the individual will use the dollars to advance the idea.

The finale is at 5:15 p.m. March 8 in Room 402 of the Haslam Business Building.

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