After speed walking right down the building lobby, I slid right into the elevator before the doors closed, throwing myself into the lion’s den, without taking a moment to think. This was my chance to pitch The Phat Startup. Yup…ironically in an elevator…
But this wasn’t your ‘standard networking pitch’, which is something that I’ve pretty much gotten down to the tee by this point anyway. This was Jay Z, someone I had admired and looked up to pretty much for the majority of my life. I thought I was having a heart attack. I had to quickly figure out what the hell to say, and say it fast, before I got off at my floor.
Without the prep I had done in the months before, I’m not sure how I could have gone through in. This is not to say I didn’t mess up. OH I DID.
I immediately dove in, shook Jay’s hand and introduced myself. In less of a rapid fire, and more of a projectile vomit formation, I gave him as much information about us that I could, and still felt I had left huge gaps out.
After I got off, I kept thinking, “Dammnit!, I wished I practiced it even more!” But you can’t plan for that. Or can you? How do you make sure you are prepared when a similar opportunity presents itself?
Let’s become elevator pitch masters!
- Structure, Structure, Structure!
Structure is the key to nailing down your elevator pitch. You want to make sure you’re laying out your info so that it’s easy to process for the listener. You want to make sure you nail down the following points in order:
- Intro yourself and your company
- State the problem that you are solving
- State your solution to that problem
- Introduce your target market
The MOST important thing is to state the problem that you’re attempting to solve. If your product or service doesn’t solve a problem that potential customers have, your business ain’t shit. Harsh, but simple.
Don’t get it twisted, you don’t need to be solving a massive problem where the solution will change the world (though there is nothing wrong with that). When you start a business, you are essentially solving a business that your customers have. Here are some examples of problem statements that can be used in an elevator pitch:
– “All high-energy sports drinks taste terrible and have been proven to take a toll on your health”
– “There is no truly authentic Mexican restaurant in this town”
-”Collaboration on mobile devices among employees at large companies is expensive and time-consuming”
Keep it simple!
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen is when entrepreneurs state their solution WITHOUT first identifying the problem they are attempting to solve. Rookie mistake.
Smart entrepreneurs (like you who are reading this!) can avoid amateur hour and make sure they are solving a problem that customers actually have before developing a solution to it. Try to keep it as short as possible.
While you think about the problem you’re setting out to solve, simultaneously you’ll probably be thinking about who would have this problem. Try to divide your target market into smaller sets of groups you expect to be marketing to. Jahde wrote a post on finding a validating your niche a while back. In your elevator pitch, you’ll want to talk about the market segments you are targeting, how many people are in each segment, and the total amount they currently spend. Although this information might not be used, all entrepreneurs should know EVERYTHING about the market they are entering.
- Have multiple versions of your pitch
Being prepared goes a long way in moving you toward become a great pitcher. In short, you have to adapt your pitch to your environment. You’re not going to give the same pitch in the boardroom, an impromptu meeting or an event. You’ll sound like an out-of-place idiot. And we wouldn’t want that.
Sometimes you’ll have a minute or two at a pitch competition. Other times, when you’re at an event introducing yourself, you’ll have to articulate it all in under 20 words. Talk about tough. If you come to our events, you have 30 seconds in our rapid-fire rounds.The range is large and it’s on you to prepare yourself for whatever situation you get yourself in.
- Nail the Delivery
You pitch is nothing without on point delivery. Every MC knows that your rhymes don’t mean shit if you can’t present it properly. Your pitch is just as important. The key is to create the right mi of energy, knowledge and passion without being distracting. As the business is your baby, you DON’T want to get into the trap of getting too excited about it that you start rambling on.
Record yourself practicing your pitch with your computer or smartphone. Before you have the confidence presenting your pitch to your close friends and family, get most of the kinks out this way. You’ll be able to tighten up your pitch in a shorter amount of time.
Present pitch to someone who know nothing about your business
Start with a blank slate and see how much information they were able to understand. This is going to be your audience. After you’re done, ask them to reiterate back to your what your company does and the value it’s bringing to the table.
Practice, Practice Practice
Nothing can replace practice. The more time you practice, the more confident you can be to deliver the best elevator pitch in any situation.
Photo credit: CC by Kim Færch Jacobsen