The pitch. It’s everything to a startup looking to raise money. It’s your identity, your request for capital, your advertising, your brand story, and your lifeline to keeping your company alive and growing. Pitching your startup to investors or customers can be extremely overwhelming, especially when the business is your baby and your future rests on the success or failure of your delivery. If you are working on perfecting your pitch, here are a few tips to help you pitch more effectively and gain support.

1. Don’t fail because of a bad business plan

The greatest idea in the world will fail without proper planning. Having a solid business plan that clearly expresses how your capital will be used and your plan to scale will make an investor have the confidence that they will eventually see a return on their money. A solid plan also shows the investor that you are knowledgeable not only about your product, but the competitors, the market opportunity, the industry and the future of your business. Reinforce your business plan by determining the break-even point for your business, then customizing the plan to demonstrate exactly how the money will be flowing in every month.

2. Show the investment is sustainable

Sustainability is key to gaining investments from VCs and angel investors as well as earning respect from industry professionals and potential customers. There’s a difference between an idea that inspires early adoption and one that’s a flash in the pan. Customers are savvy enough to know when a product has the potential for longevity. Everyone who will invest, purchase or support your company needs to know that you will be around for the long haul and you have a plan for how to do that successfully.

3. Know your audience

Cater the pitch to your audience, whether it’s potential investors or a panel of judges. When speaking to investors, focus on the numbers, sustainability and viability of the company. Make them understand quickly what’s in it for them. If you are speaking to a panel of judges at a startup competition, your focus should be on your business as a whole. This will be the broadest pitch you give, but be careful not to cast too wide a net and leave out important details. If your investors are new to tech, be sure that you don’t lose them in the acronyms. Regardless of the excuses people often make about how well a panel (regardless of who it is made up of) understands your business, remember that the effectiveness of your pitch is 100 percent on you.

4. Practice, practice, practice

It may be the most obvious one and yet people sometimes feel like too much practice makes the pitch seem too stiff. And while you never want to come across as robotic, the more you practice, the more comfortable, knowledgeable and prepared for questions you’ll be. Practice a variety of pitches so you can flow with different situations. Whether you’re giving a one-minute elevator pitch or ten-minute talk, preparation and practice are the keys to coming across as confident.

The thought of public speaking makes many people nervous regardless of their experience. But presentation skill is something that can be honed and improved in various ways over time to make the experience less worrisome. Simply having contact information on your introduction slide and delivering your elevator pitch at the top of the presentation will set you off on the right path and get the room interested in what you have to say.

5. Make sure you shine, too

Ideas are plentiful but great leaders are few. This is why you have to give your audience a reason to remember you. It isn’t necessary to get theatrical or gimmicky with your pitch, but having a stellar phrase or two that is hard to forget or giving your audience hands-on time with the actual product (if possible) are great ways to be remembered. Think about what makes you and your product different and make it clear to ensure that at the end of the pitch, your business is all your audience is thinking about.

Pitching your business is like casting out a fishing line with the best bait possible and then waiting patiently for the bobber to wiggle and jump with a fish on the hook. At the end of the day, all you can do is take the advice you have been given, or ask for feedback, perfect your pitch, practice a ton and learn from every experience so you can improve with each and every presentation.