Introduce yourself, find a way to reach your audience, stimulate their interest, all in less than 120 seconds? For someone launching a start-up, mastering the art of the pitch is the best way to get the attention of investors as well as the public. That’s because in this game, you rarely get a second chance to make a good impression. Here are some tips from Fiona Picot, a young businesswoman who won the Pitch Night HEC competition.

Perfect Your Introduction

The first 15 seconds that you speak are crucial: don’t forget that you need to say something memorable that will wake up your audience! The public will always be more impressed by a joke, a dramatic statement or a personal anecdote than by a Powerpoint slide show, no matter how well done it is. Don’t hesitate to use strong symbolism to get your point across. When I go to a podium, I often carry one of MyHoly’s products: a tampon, a menstrual pad… which I make sure my audience sees. This is much more effective than a speech about the benefits of eco-friendly feminine-hygiene products!

Take Charge of the Moment

Speech is still the simplest way to provoke emotions. Nothing should get in the way of making a direct connection with your audience. So, forget your slides, your factsheets and your microphone, and speak directly to the public in the most natural way possible, using your own words and your own style. I like to wear a pin-on microphone that lets me move around in the space, make gestures freely and use my hands (I’m a southern girl!).

Use Simple Constructions

You don’t communicate in the same way with investors as you do with a professional jury or with consumers. But no matter what kind of audience you have, it’s never a good idea to say something complex just to appear knowledgeable! The public is more influenced by simple language and logical connections. Your story should be transparent: your idea, why you believe in it, and what your project is. Forget about covering all the bases. You need to make people a bit frustrated because they want to learn more. You need to focus on the essential and avoid speaking too quickly.

Call on a Coach

I was lucky to have had the advice of Jacques Birol (H.74), an HEC professor who heard my presentation before I gave it at Station F. He helped me come up with the best comments and ways to get my points across. Having someone else’s opinion is often essential as you prepare a presentation. For shy people, a few classes in theater or in speechmaking can be a big plus. It would be really sad to spoil a presentation because of stress. Never forget that you are doing this to please yourself. Before each presentation, I write on my forearm the word “enjoy”.

Know Your Presentation by Heart

When I was a child, I took classes in classical dance, and I remember the anguish of having to perform in front of parents in the end-of-the-year show. I quickly learned that the best way to handle this stress was to know the choreography absolutely perfectly. The “machine” should be able to take charge if the mind gets blocked. It’s the same for a pitch: I learn my presentation by heart so that nothing unexpected will happen, although I avoid panicking if, once I’ve started speaking, I change a word or phrase. This doesn’t mean to just recite your presentation or act like a robot. I’ve seen so many wonderful projects fail to make an impression because the presentations lacked passion…


Fiona Picot
A graduate of EM Lyon, this former consultant in business strategy founded MyHoly, an ecological brand of women’s hygiene products, in 2018. In a presentation that lasted less than two minutes, she won the HEC Pitch Night prize at Station F.

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