Pitches are a pain
A great pitch is a lot of work:
- Your pitch must be engaging and compelling for your audience.
- Style counts (a lot).
- You pitch when you are asked, not when you feel like it.
- You usually have to travel to your audience.
- You often get hammered with difficult, sometimes pointed questions.
- You may have to pitch from a stage, which can be intimidating.
- It takes time away from building product or managing the business.
Developing and delivering a pitch is difficult, often frustrating, work to create and even more so to polish.
The upshot is that developing and delivering a pitch feels as though it is something that you do for others.
But they're a useful pain
I'd like you to reconsider that assessment, because there are two aspects of pitching that are 100% for your benefit:
- The purpose of making a pitch is to get something that you want or need
- The process of creating a pitch forces you to clarify your thinking about your business
Therefore, you are writing your pitch for your own benefit. Perhaps you can take some inspiration from that fact as you rewrite it for the umpteenth time.
More important, make sure you maximize the benefit to yourself. In doing so, you will likely be maximizing the benefit to the audience.
1. Get what you want
Before you start writing your pitch, let alone before you present it, know what you want to achieve from the pitch meeting itself and what you want and need to make your company a success.
Let's say you need to raise $500K to get your product on the market. You're going to a networking event where a friend has promised to introduce you to an angel who is interested in companies in your industry. The event will likely be noisy and crowded. The angel will likely be accosted by entrepreneurs wanting to pitch. You only have a few seconds to stand out from the crowd. Clearly, these circumstances are not ideal for a full pitch!
Short term: You want another meeting with the angel. That means that the elevator version of your pitch must be sufficiently intriguing that the angel will be willing to carve out some time to really talk with you, preferably with some of his partners on hand.
Best way to do that: make sure you know a lot about that angel: follow his Twitter feed, read his blog, check out his group's website if there is one. Then you can tune the first seconds of your pitch to what interests him, which will help you stand out versus those who haven't taken the time to learn about him.
Longer term: You want $500K. The longer (i.e., ~ 10 minute) version of your pitch needs to touch on all the major aspects of your business (your innovation is just a tiny part!) so that you build confidence and excitement in your company for the angel.
Best way to do that: Write an elevator pitch for each aspect of your business - customer pain, secret sauce, sustainable competitive advantage, business model, financial projections, team, development plan, liquidity event and ask.
2. Clarify your thinking
One of the most difficult aspects of being an entrepreneur is that you rarely have the luxury of looking at the big picture. Most of the time, you are putting out fires, working on the product, trying to hit milestones, all the while surviving on pitiful amounts of sleep and lousy food - you are stressed and up to your eyeballs in nitty-gritty details.
The worst pitches are those that reflect that situation: wordy, detailed, tech-heavy - they provide little clarity for the audience. And such pitches are usually very long (although not as long as they may seem to a desperate audience). Unfortunately, when you are that close to the details, it's hard to back far enough away to be able to describe the big picture.
On the bright side, you must have a detailed understanding of your business in order to create a great pitch. You just have to avoid sharing all those details. Keep in mind that, in the context of a pitch, you don't have time to be accurate or precise; you are not teaching - you are helping others see your big vision.
In my experience, the best approach for getting away from details and to the big picture is to talk more about what than how. If they want to know how, that is going to cost them another meeting. At least.
My suggestion of writing an elevator pitch for different aspects of your business may help you with that process. That means that you have 120 words to describe your competitive advantage, including why it's better than what people are doing to deal with the problem you are addressing today as well as why it's better than your direct, indirect and emerging competitors.
Think that's too demanding? Then tell me your competitive advantage in a Twitter post. After that, 120 words will seem like a luxury!
Make your pitch work for you
Your pitch is a tool for examining your business before your audience does, finding and fixing problems before exposing them to daylight. It's also a tool for getting an investment or a customer or something else that you want.
As an added bonus, you get to talk about something you love (although not for as long as you'd like). You get to be yourself and you get to help other people as excited about what you're doing as you are.
So even though pitches are a pain, think of them as a necessary good.