Nailing The One Minute Pitch

the pitch

A couple weeks ago I was asked to speak to a large group of entrepreneurs about building a good one minute pitch.

First point I made was about the mechanics: the bare bones every thorough pitch must include:

  • Who you are and why you are the one
  • Your value impact or key results – a tag line
  • Your unique benefits – what makes you better or different
  • The call to action – the requested next step or immediate goal.

Second point I made addressed what I called the atmospherics:

  • Don’t force it – make sure it is welcome
  • Don’t stand too close or breathe or spit on the person (for more people skills see, The Overture)
  • Don’t rush it and talk too fast – slowness speaks of confidence
  • Make it sound sincere & conversational not rehearsed (ironically, you get there by rehearsing)
  • Check for comprehension and circle back if you see confusion.

Third point I made had to do with getting into your listener’s headspace. There are three basic things investors care about, and you’ve got to hit all three:

  • Is this a great entrepreneur?
  • Is there a real market opportunity here?
  • Is this a compelling solution/approach?

Once I had covered mechanics, atmospherics and headspace, I concluded by addressing the obvious question: how on earth do you hit all three in one minute?

Not easy, but doable with some practice. Here’s how.

On the question of the entrepreneur, it is not part of the pitch; it is demonstrated via people and communication skills. You want to be graceful, articulate, polite, intense, intelligent, charismatic and, to the extent it turns into a conversation, a good listener.

On the question of the market opportunity, this is harder – characterizing an entire market in less than a minute is not easy. But one trick that can work well is to hook them with the tale of your lightbulb moment – that “a-ha” moment when you had the initial insight, and then how you came to be certain that insight could be the basis for a business. This is the source of your passion for the plan – if you tell the story, it often resonates and it can be memorable, which is a major plus.

On the question of your solution/approach, you need to remember that it absolutely must be smart, differentiated and defensible. You can cover a lot of ground with a sentence like “Exiting solutions are [too expensive], [too narrow], [not powerful enough], or [too complex].” The goal is to put your solution in perspective. For example, at the 100,000 foot level: is it better, faster or cheaper?  Is it oxygen, aspirin or jewelry (i.e. something customers must have to live, something that merely relieves a lot of pain, or just a nice to have?).

How about the basic economics? What is your solution’s “value payload” as compared to the cost of getting customers, making the product, delivering it and servicing the customer?  (Or in simpler terms applicable to consumer web companies, what is the cost of customer acquisition vs. the lifetime value of the customer?)

If you can make a personal connection, project some presence and charisma, explain the opportunity, and talk convincingly about even just one aspect of the solution, you have pretty much nailed a one minute pitch. Just don’t forget to save a couple seconds to ask for the business card and permission to follow up with them afterwards!

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