Mastering the Elevator Pitch
Anyone can talk about their business idea but not everyone can do it well. As an entrepreneur, you have to aim higher than that, much higher. Make no mistake, your elevator pitch is a make or break tool. Pitch well, and you get your foot in the door and perhaps a sit-down with an investor or someone else who can decide your capital fate. Pitch badly and it doesn’t matter how good your idea is, you’ll struggle to get any attention.
But first things first, let’s get definitions out of the way. An elevator pitch is a short and entertaining introduction to you and your business that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator. In other words, not long. For now, we’re focused on the short pitch, the 30-90 second summary of your business. A longer pitch complete with pitch deck comes later down the track.
At the end of this article, you should be able to walk away with a solid handle on what makes a good pitch, what to avoid and how to ensure your investor will follow-up. It’s actually pretty black and white but it does take time to refine your story so the advice is, be patient. Understand that you’ll have to work and rework your pitch over and over again.
Here are my five pitch takeaways. Listen, there are hundreds out there but in my view, these are critical.
The first important point about elevator pitches, whether they are in fact done in an elevator or before a panel of investors at a key pitching event, is that no one cares about your product or your idea as much as you do. This is a mindset tip and a very important one at that. Do not be lulled into thinking that because an investor has given you five minutes of his or her time that they are invested in your idea. They’re not. Not yet anyway. Why is this helpful? Because you’ll inevitably be told ‘no’ more times than you’re told ‘yes’ so it helps to remember, this isn’t personal, it’s business.
Take the macro approach
An investor doesn’t want minutiae. If they decide to ask for more information, if they want to do a deep dive, they’ll do so later. But at first, think, act and speak big picture. Plus, remember the WHY. Much more important than the what and the how at this stage.
Write it down, script it out
Why? You’ll be able to fit more in your three sentence, 30 second pitch than if you relied on an off-the-cuff delivery filled with human speech traps like ums and uhs. But it’s not just about writing it down, the real skill is in the editing. What you take out is just as important as what you leave in. What am I taking out? Put simply, anything that doesn’t highlight or prove the worthiness of your idea.
Say it aloud
Once you’ve written it out, polished it and memorised it, say it aloud and really listen to what you’re saying. How’s your pace? Are you thinking too much about getting it all out in 30 seconds? Or are you delivering it with poise and punctuating your delivery with a pause or emphasis on key words? And what about your tone? Friendly, inviting, confident? Or obnoxious, aggressive, in your face? Or, MAYBE it’s shy, reserved or weak? Honestly, you can only tell once it’s spoken aloud. Now, once you’ve nailed that, take a friend, ride an elevator and practise it. Seriously, if you can deliver it successfully in a confined and maybe hot and crowded space, you’re already winning.
Not literally of course, it’s an acronym which you’ve probably heard of – keep it simple stupid – it’s one of the most important things you learn in journalism, particularly broadcast where a viewer or listener has to understand what you’re saying the first time they hear it. Same goes for a pitch. Keep the explanation broad, highlight one or two key features – and that could even be a social proof, a brief story that illustrates a customer’s transformation. And if you can make it memorable through a pun, a rhyme or a comparison-style, X meets Y model, all the better.
Finish with a hoo
What’s a hook? Think of it as something that will make the investor interested enough to ask another question. Good example: The beta product has been so well received, one leading multinational has already committed to distribute it once in production. Or, 18 month trials have shown that nightly use of our mouthguard is as effective as wearing braces. It makes you want to ask, which multinational and how does the mouthguard work? This is particularly relevant at pitch events with lots of other companies presenting, you need something to make sure you stand out.
So, recapping. No one cares about your idea as much as you do. Remember to think, act and speak big picture, write your pitch down, then edit and polish until you’re happy before practicing it aloud. Keep It Simple Stupid. Remember, broad brushstrokes, two key features and use tools like puns, rhymes and comparisons to make it memorable. And finally, finish with a hook so your investor will be compelled to ask more questions.
Those of you who like homework, here are two things to get you started: identify the one thing about your product or service that would leave an investor hanging. Plus, try to sum up your idea in ten words or less.