The power of pitching: How to craft a 60-second startup pitch

ByElizabeth J. Bohn

May 13, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Most founders could talk about their business for hours.

Unfortunately, most people won’t pay attention for more than a minute.

That’s why it’s essential to distil what your business does and why people should be excited about it in 60 seconds or less. 

Whether you’re looking for investment, seeking advice or building connections, having a short, pre-prepared pitch could make all the difference. 

In this article, we look at how you can develop a 60-second pitch to use in any situation.

Here’s what we cover:

Keep your pitch short, simple and persuasive

Before getting into how to craft the perfect pitch, there’s one mantra to keep in mind throughout: short, simple, persuasive. 

An “elevator pitch” should highlight the most compelling aspects of your business in 60 seconds or less (i.e. the time it takes to ride an elevator).

It should succinctly describe your business, what you have to offer and why somebody should be interested in helping – or funding – you.

Remember, you’ll be using your pitch in a variety of scenarios.

This includes pitching to people who may have little to no understanding of your industry. 

Focus on making your pitch conversational, easy to understand and persuasive, regardless of who you’re speaking to. Ditch complex terms, industry acronyms and jargon, and try to avoid sounding too salesy. 

Once you understand the tone you’re trying to strike, here’s how to put that pitch together.

How to structure your pitch

The hook

Your pitch needs to start with a hook: an introduction that grabs attention by making people stop and think.

Investors hear pitches every day, so what will make you stand out? 

A good hook should be instantly memorable.

Start with something surprising, amusing or interactive. This could be a statistic, a question that makes people examine their instincts or even a short personal story. 

At startup competition The Pitch, one founder asked the audience to raise their hands if they had an item of clothing in their wardrobe that they’d never worn.

Another promised £1,000 to anyone who could book a ski trip in fewer than six clicks. 

Your customer’s problem

Once you have the audience’s attention, it’s time to describe your target customer and the problem they have. 

If possible, try to encourage your audience to personally empathise with the problem.

Is it something they might personally have encountered, observed or been frustrated by? 

If your problem is something they might not be familiar with, use an anecdote or try to provide a character that they can relate to. 

Your solution

This is your opportunity to explain exactly what your business does and how it solves the customer’s problem.

Sound simple? Unfortunately, it’s the area that founders tend to struggle with the most. 

It can be hard to strike a balance between providing enough information and getting bogged down in the details.

You also need to bear in mind that you won’t always have visuals to hand. If your solution involves technology like software or an app, you’ll need to be able to explain how it works without a demo.

It’s best to take plenty of time on this stage when planning your pitch.

Write out a few different explanations of your solution and pitch them to people who have no idea what your business does.

See which version people respond best to.

Market and competition

Without a market, there is no opportunity.

As such, you need to illustrate the size of your market and demonstrate that it’s growing. 

Avoid grand but vague numbers as this can undermine your credibility. Be realistic too – if your business deals specifically with UK golf, don’t quote the global sports market.

If an investor is convinced that you have a solution to a genuine problem and there is indeed a market for it, the next obvious question is: “How come nobody else has been able to solve it?”

Be prepared to address the competition and have a robust answer that goes beyond your business simply being “better”.

What do you do differently?

Is there a niche you’re targeting that’s currently untapped?

Traction

Traction shows that there’s demand for your product or service. It could be revenue, users, customer reviews – anything that demonstrates market interest. 

If you’re still in the process of validating your idea and haven’t yet launched, don’t worry.

There are plenty of other ways to demonstrate traction, such as meetings with key partners or suppliers, social media followers or successful pilots.

Your credentials

The people you pitch to aren’t just assessing your business – they’re weighing up your capabilities as well. As such, make sure you’re able to demonstrate that you’re a safe pair of hands.

In this section, try and answer the question: why are you the right person to take this business forward?

Cover relevant qualifications, industry experience or a personal experience that’s driven you to find the solution.

Your team

At this point, you’ll be nearing the end of your 60 seconds. Time is of the essence, but include a sentence or two about the team that surrounds you.

If you’ve got a co-founder or employees, it’s the perfect time to briefly explain the skills you’ve got on board.

If you’re a solo founder, touch on any mentors or advisers that are helping you on your journey. 

The ask

At the end of your pitch, be clear about what you want. This will depend on the audience you’re pitching to, but should all tie into the same goal for your business. 

If you’re pitching to investors, state exactly how much money you’re looking to raise and why – what will that investment help you achieve?

If you’re pitching at a networking event, ask for connections to investors who have experience in your industry. 

Final thoughts: Practice makes perfect

Once your pitch is crafted and you’re confident that it’s under 60 seconds, the only thing left to do is practice.

Test it on your team, your friends and family.

Deliver it in front of a mirror.

Record it on your phone and listen to it over again.

Aim to know your pitch off by heart. That way, in any situation, at any given moment, you’ll be able to effectively communicate what your business does and why people should get excited.

The Pitch is a free competition that gives startups the support to grow and the platform to raise investment. And it works – finalists from recent cohorts have raised tens of millions since taking part. Applications are open for The Pitch 2022 enter now.



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