The ten-minute pitch is a staple of investor conferences and startup competitions. It's my favorite pitch for its efficiency in communicating the critical aspects of a business in a time frame that can hold the interest of even those with short attention spans. When you're trying to stand out among hundreds or even thousands of companies competing for the attention of a given investor, the ability to capture his or her imagination in ten minutes is a valuable skill.
About ten slides, each with minimal graphics and bullets... should be easy, right? Not a chance - it may be a simple result, but the process itself is truly challenging. Think of it this way: Life is a lot simpler if you're single, but that doesn't mean it's easier. Decision making is a lot simpler because only your opinion counts, but there's still just one person to carry it out.
Your Technology May Be Complex, But Your Pitch Can't Be
It's that much more difficult to put together when you are intimately familiar with the technology. How can you possibly explain how the chemistry of a new cancer drug works or defend the economics of your underwater turbines in ten minutes and still cover everything else?
The short answer is: You can't.
More important, you shouldn't try.
In ten minutes, you don't have time to teach anyone anything. All you can do is get them so excited about what you're doing that they can't wait to learn more... and invite you to come back later, to pitch to more people and at a more leisurely pace.
For the best chance of success, every word you say and every bullet point and graphic on each page has to be on point, clear and memorable. And yet, the most common description I hear for the process of distilling a business to a compelling ten minute pitch is that we are "dumbing it down". I take issue with this attitude on several levels: I think it is disrespectful of your audience, who more than likely isn't dumb and even if they are won't appreciate being thought of that way. It belittles the very challenging process of accomplishing that distillation to ten minutes. It suggests that the pitch is based on a poor understanding of the technology or business instead of being a top level presentation of a very deep understanding.
Instead of thinking of it as dumbing down your technology, think of it as making it simple for people to get why they should be excited about it, so they want to learn more about you, your company and your technology.