How many times each day are you the recipient of a "pitch" — an attempt to attract your attention and to listen to someone's message regarding their product or service?
It happens on television, over the radio, billboards on the freeway, when you are filling your car with gas, at the ballpark, on the back of a bus or taxi, when someone walks by with a branded T-shirt, on your personal computer screen, in your personal mail, on the telephone — just about everyplace we go and in everything that we do.
It's hard to sift through it all, isn't it? So how can you expect an investor, potential customer or prospective employee to give you time when others are competing with gobs of money and sophisticated research for the same precious moments from these people?
Sometimes our only opportunity to make a favorable impression is in a one- or two-minute verbal exchange. Your pitch should therefore be well-rehearsed, clear, compelling and delivered with conviction.
This past week I participated in an event during which 38 entrepreneurs competed in a "pitch competition." The pitches ranged from good to bad, with many missing the point of a pitch and what can be accomplished in a short period of time.
Most often we fall into the trap of spending too much time talking about the product. Our brain is so full of product details that we do not address the other important components of the business. This problem reminds me of a presentation that I once sat through on a potential investment for a motion picture.
The presenter took all of his time to talk about the script, how excited he was with the story line and how critics and audiences would love his film. At the end of the session I had no idea if he could even begin to produce or distribute the product.
Consider the following points when developing and delivering your pitch:
Cover the most important issues. Be right up front with the name of your company, your name and title, the pain that you are addressing in the market, your solution (sometimes referred to as your value proposition), your market/customers and how you will deliver to them, how you make money (your business model) and why you will be successful.
Know your audience. Although you may deliver a similar message to various people, a two-minute pitch to an investor will contain different elements than a pitch to a potential customer or an individual that you are recruiting. Tailor the end of your pitch to address what your audience needs to know within the context of their relationship to your firm.
Stay at the right level of detail. A mistake often made during a pitch is to move from the abstract to the detailed in the same two-minute delivery. Guy Kawasaki, a professional investor, suggests that you "provide enough detail to prove you can deliver and enough aerial view to prove you have a vision."
Use plain language and be specific. Avoid hype, do not overuse the latest buzzwords and never, ever, EVER say "awesome."
Be enthusiastic in your delivery. Your demeanor, your eye contact and how you deliver the pitch will say much about how you feel about your idea.
Practice. Being a great orator will not guarantee that you can say what is important in two minutes. Try delivering your message to a group of friends. Ask them to write down what you just told them and then review the written responses. If there are discrepancies in the feedback, you need to fix your pitch.
Be prepared to work on your pitch. You will need to practice it several times on various audiences. Bottom line, you need to feel comfortable with your two-minute delivery in order to be effective.
Gary Williams is affiliated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.