Dragon’s Den and Funding Fair events are becoming increasingly popular. These provide an invaluable opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their companies and fledgling enterprises to would-be funders.

But it’s the pitch that really counts and not so many enthusiastic entrepreneurs know exactly how to fine tune these.

The ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme – which will be in town on August 22 – fills this gap.

Engen Petroleum, business incubator Raizcorp and local stakeholders the Durban Chamber of Commerce, Invo Tech and the eThekwini Municipality are on the lookout for promising local entrepreneurs.

Because, together with understanding the fundamentals of business, a polished pitch is the gateway to success, they’re out to help small businesses improve their business offerings and fine tune their pitches.

The format includes both a workshop and a competition. It is very much a lateral-thinking national business competition, exposing would-be entrepreneurs to entrepreneurial training and thinking and helping entrepreneurs turn their businesses or business ideas into successes.

For starters, they’re sharing a bit of advice on the pitching element of their event.

Pitching is like dating….

You’re on your first date: you must make the initial impression the best one in order to lock in a second date: you employ all the skills you have at your fingertips; and voila!

Short-term goal for a second date: secured

Long-term goal for a relationship that lasts: in progress

Like dating, pitching your business or business idea to potential investors or possible partners also relies on a number of basic fundamental truths – being confident without being cocky, being approachable without seeming desperate, being passionate without being immoderate and having the facts and numbers at your fingertips and voila!

Short-term goal for a second meeting: secured

Long-term goal for a mutually beneficial relationship: in progress

When dating, certain fundamentals should be avoided, such as answering your phone, belching or arriving dirty. Likewise when pitching your business to a prospective investor, below are the basics of what NOT to do:

Avoid buzz words and jargon

These can sound the death knell of any new interaction. Use easy-to-understand language, crisp, concise and simple. Include actual anecdotes and humour, be witty without being corny or sarcastic and never ever talk down to anyone because you think they won’t understand your ideas. Be genuine, be real, be sincere.

Go easy with the PowerPoint presentation

Yes, we all know that it looks good, sounds good, is professional and pleasing to the eye. But it’s you they want more of, rather than the accoutrements. Just as when on a first date, it’s the impression you make as a person rather than the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the art you own that captivates the heart. Rather ensure that the initial attention is focused on you and your ability to share your exciting venture – and only then bring on the PowerPoint, as the dessert rather than the main course.

Don’t ignore advice from those around you

You sound out your best friend about what you should wear, which restaurant you should visit – and even if you don’t take all the advice, it’s comforting to know that two heads are better than one and could work in your favour during the date. So, too, when preparing your pitching message, play it first to a captive but honest audience – family, friends, and colleagues – that will criticise positively and help you see the errors that you missed because you’re too close. In this way you will gain perspective, confidence and practice.

From first base to home run

First base: you approach the date with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation, hoping there will be a connection. The initial pitch, too, is nerve-wrecking as you want to come across polished and succinct, listen and connect.

Getting to second base: will she/he be responsive enough for you to push ahead? Will the company show increased interest and commitment to invest or at least want to know more, more detail, more faces?

Third base: will the connection deepen or is rejection imminent? Patience is the key ingredient during this stage. Hopefully, there have been indications of joint moving forward – great excitement but muted till there is more confirmation.

Fourth base: You scored!  Birds of a feather, shared interests, common path – it’s working! You receive positive input and constructive feedback, introductions to other partners / stakeholders, supplying necessary and additional information. You are ready to forge ahead.

Home run: Marriage? You are building a strong business relationship. The next step has to be contracts signed for commitment from both sides and agreements on necessary financing needed. Both parties fired up with enthusiasm and ready to move forward.

Register now to attend or compete at the free Durban event happening on August 22. Sms PITCH to 45901 (charged at R1.50 per sms) or register online at www.pitchandpolish.com.