Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ten Tips On Elevator Pitches

Two of my favorites, Chip & Dan Heath, just posted six great tips for Elevator Pitches [those brief, compelling and credible descriptions of your venture that will motivate your listener to (a) tell others that they think could be interested/helpful and (b) ask you to tell them more]. Here are their six:

1) Think short.
2) If your topic is complex, use "anchor and twist"
3) Don't wing it, script it.
4) "Why" before "what".
5) It is mandatory... to include a story. (this isn't exactly the way they phrased it, but this way rhymes)
6) Check out other pitches for inspiration.

To their list, I would add four more, to make it to that ever useful "10 tips":

7) Know what you want, and build in a soft "ask" to every pitch. This anchors the idea for your listener so they will think about who else they might want to tell about your idea. Whether you see yourself as a social entrepreneur or a "plain old" entreprenuer (irony intended), it is important to know what you want, and ask for it. Your ask is also a gift- you are providing the listener with an opportunity to get involved with something AWESOME... your venture. Don't make it a "guess what" gift. Be clear about the opportunity!

8) Tell "who"- people tend to overvalue the idea and undervalue the team. Don't. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Worthy ideas with strong teams are rare and valuable.

9) Use questions as well as statements. This shifts your audience from questioning and challenging your idea to wanting to assist you. (Paul Graham gets credit for this framing idea)

10) No matter what your pitch is, "how" you deliver it is at least as important as what you deliver. Are you passionate? Formal or informal? Team based? Think through all the non-verbal aspects of your pitch. Videotape yourself. Seriously. You get one chance to make your best impression.

When Andy Hargadon and I do our session on pitching new ventures, we say: "if you can't say what you are doing in 150 characters or less, you don't know what you are doing." Provocative? Yes. But in our experience, the ability to describe the essence of a venture is indicative of a successful entrepreneur. This short statement can then be used as a framework around which to build the rest of your pitch.

Finally, remember a big part of the pitch is to provide for retelling. If you have ever done the class room exercise of whispering some words to the person next to you, who whispers to the person next to them, etc., you know how garbled a message can become through retelling. That is why being clear, concise and compelling is so important. You are not just creating an elevator pitch, you are designing an elevator pitch that will be retold. Test your early prototypes. How well is your message retold?

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