12 Tips for Creating an Effective Pitch

An elevator pitch needs to be clear, concise, provide a solution and generate interest in order to just get the conversation started

AS WE discovered in the previous post, an elevator pitch is a high-level overview of whatever it is that you are selling and is designed to just get the conversation started (Elevator Pitch Essentials, Chris O’Leary).

As a high level overview, an elevator pitch will need to be kept fairly short and to the point.  The irony is that creating a short pitch is likely to be a fairly long process because you will have to decide what information your listeners need to hear and what are just details. To mis-quote Mark Twain:

I didn’t have time to write a short elevator pitch, so I wrote a long one instead.

There is a lot to think about when preparing an elevator pitch, so to speed up the process I have identified 12 tips for creating an effective pitch.

1. Structure and Content

  1. Be clear – you want people to understand. You need to explain your idea in a way that your mother would understand. You want your audience to do the least amount of work possible.
  2. Be concise – people are busy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people’s attention starts to waiver after 30 seconds. An elevator pitch should be no longer than 60 seconds.  Too much information will scare people away. Give them just enough information, and make them want to know more.
  3. Provide a solution – people want you to solve their problems. Focus specifically on the problem that you are solving for your audience. If you merely provide a shopping list of skills or services you may leave your audience thinking “So what? How does that help me?” After you have presented the problem, provide an outline of your solution.
  4. Tailor your pitch – different people have different problems. A pitch should address the specific concerns of your audience.
  5. Be credible – who are you? why are you qualified to provide your solution? Explain why you are able to identify and solve the problem.
  6. Give the big picture – the details are confusing. People are unlikely to understand your idea in the same way that you do, so the details will confuse or bore them. Give a high-level overview of your idea.
  7. Be unique – there are many ideas competing for attention.  What makes your idea different?
  8. Set the hook – you need to generate interest. A hook is a statement designed to generate interest and make your audience want to know more. For example, “I am a consultant in the city” compared with “I am a McKinsey strategy consultant looking at the new media and high tech space. I’m currently looking at cloud computing and how it is changing the computer industry forever.” As a second example, borrowed from Anna Rose, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition has a very short elevator pitch: “The AYCC aims to build a generation wide movement to solve climate change before it is too late.”  The last 5 words are the hook, “before it’s too late”!
  9. Call to action – what do you want? An elevator pitch is not designed the close the deal, it is designed to just get the conversation started.  It would be a good idea however to decide what you would like to achieve out of the interaction. You can then give people an opportunity to help you by asking for what you want: a business card, honest feedback, a referral, legal advice, seed capital, an opportunity to give a full presentation.

2. Delivery

  1. Be prepared – people respond to confidence. First impressions are important and to deliver a strong performance you should practice and get feedback. Prepare answers to any tough questions that you may get in response to your pitch. You need to be comfortable enough to adapt to the conversation as it progresses.
  2. Be genuinely passionate – people tune out the ordinary. If you are genuinely passionate, people are likely to stop and listen. Investors normally expect passion from entrepreneurs as a pre-requisite, a good idea does not compensate for lack of passion.
  3. Have integrity – your story needs to ring true. You need to believe in your own story because the first step is to convince yourself, only then can you convince your audience. Avoid clichés and platitudes.