Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This teen entrepreneur has some sage advice for first-time pitch presenters

Dorcas Olatunji, who we named an up-and-coming technologist of color in August, learned a lot from one pitch competition gone awry.

Dorcas Olatunji presenting at 2018's TrafficCast pitch event.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by technologist Dorcas Olatunji.
Heartbeat racing. Palms sweating. Forgetting why I was up there in the first place. Our names are announced, and — deep breath — here we go.

My first pitch was in front of about 10 people who were my peers in the University of Delaware’s Ideas to Action course, which took place every Saturday for about three months in Fall 2017 and was taught by Garry Johnson and James Massaquoi. With my sister, we pitched the idea of D&D’s Holiday Experience, an archive of Christmas materials (music, videos, movies, stores from which customers could order holiday materials) that would be available all year long.

This particular pitch was actually a fun and relaxing one, nothing like the pitch in that scenario first described.

In the Horn Venture Development Center, we pitched the idea for our concept in 60 seconds. This being my first pitch, the main guidelines I received were:

  • Have a clear message.
  • Discuss the main problem and your solution.
  • Make sure to have an ask of the audience!

Given the environment, I did not feel any nerves at all. In fact, I was so comfortable that a few laughs were shared with the audience here and there. I easily added side commentary and relatable anecdotes within the time constraints and felt very confident. The experience definitely affected my decision to continue pitching and sharing my ideas. So I did.

Enter Charter Launch, an event started by my school’s Entrepreneurship Club, where my sister and I pitched D&D’s Holiday Experience for what we did not know would be the last time.


This pitch was an absolute disaster.

The hour leading up to the pitch, I tried to shake off any nervous feelings and channel that feeling of confidence from the pitch from before. My sister and I approached the stage from different directions and were given the microphone, and our five-minute pitch time began.

The slides were mediocre, only because they did not follow the main prong of those guidelines: having a clear message. Our main solution was muddled with other existing concepts and there was no real evidence of actual research. Even though there were 10 to 15 people in the crowd this time, not much different than the first pitch, the main distinction was the panel of judges critiquing us. I felt the pressure of being clear and concise and explaining the concepts and adding anecdotes and trying to be comfortable and all these other thoughts rushed through my mind.

Instead of actually enjoying the experience, I could not wait to leave the stage. When the questions from the judges came around, I went full panic mode. I maintained my composure externally and answered their questions to my best ability and reflective of the concept, however, it was clear that the pitch did not satisfy the judges.

After running off the stage and away from the audience’s applause, I was relieved that moment was over. My first public pitch in front of judges and fellow competitors taught me a lot about my future pitches and interactions with others. Following a new “rules” for pitching, I came up with six tips to use for your pitch:

  1. Tell a story that the listener can relate with and follow.
  2. Present the problem uniquely, with an anecdote or phrase they will remember.
  3. Be sure to make your message clear and concise.
  4. Have a specific request of the group you are pitching your idea (tweak for different types of audiences).
  5. Have fun and relax.
  6. Be prepared for the next steps.

Since that nerve racking pitch, I won two major pitch competitions (TrafficCast’s Hack the Commute and Great Dames’ Youth Pitch) and present to my leadership club (Student Leadership Initiative Program) weekly. The more practice and familiarity with an idea, the easier it is to relate the concept and build meaningful connections with those who can propel the idea forward.

So please, when you are about to step on your next stage, have fun and make the experience memorable.

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