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Short, sharp, memorable

Knowing what to say about your business is as important as how you say it. Different environments lend themselves to different styles. Read on.
Person pitching in front of board with microphone
© pxfuel

At some point, you are going to have to speak about your idea/business. You’re going to have to convince other people about your concept – customers, suppliers, and possibly even investors and employees.

WHAT you say when you articulate your vision, is just as important as HOW you say it. You want to get your idea across so that the other party understands it, believes it and remembers it.

An important point is that it’s important to be authentic here – this has become something of a buzzword of late. Yes, you may present a more professional and polished version of yourself, however, make sure you get across your passion for the idea.

Some people think elevator pitches are ‘salesy’ or robotic, which can be true. However, whilst rehearsing it is important, make sure to be genuinely you during the delivery – this can’t be stressed enough! A successful pitch should come across as a real conversation and not an over-rehearsed, emotionless script.

Investors may not like your idea, but they may like you and see you as investable!

Top tip: it’s also really important that you distinguish your idea/business from competitors. Therefore, ensure you really emphasise how your concept is different to those that already exist. It may be useful to go back to Week 1, so you can weave your mission, values and vision into your elevator pitch.

This dispels a myth, you don’t necessarily need to be naturally charismatic or an extrovert here. There are lots of examples of famous leaders and change-makers who are naturally shy and introverted: from Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, to Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook co-founder.

You can read more about famous introverts at the page here.

The whole notion of the ‘elevator pitch’ is that you are in a lift (as we call it in the UK!) with someone you want to pitch your idea/business to and have only a short duration there to do so. It might be you have only two floors until they get off (10-seconds) or, if you’re lucky, they might be going to the top-floor of the building, and you have one-minute to present your idea to them.

Two important insights here are: you need to have different lengths of your elevator pitch, as well as different types, depending on the audience you are speaking to. Ultimately, this is driven by the situation: what does the other person really want/need to know?

For instance, if they’re a potential investor – focus more on financial elements and when they are likely to get a return on their investment and how much. When it comes to potential team members, they may care more about job security and opportunities for growth and progression.

One helpful approach is to have your elevator pitch ‘as a Tweet’ – i.e. no longer than 140 characters!

Where something is more complex, or when there are Intellectual Property considerations (which we explained earlier), it may be helpful to use metaphors or analogies to explain your idea. It may also be appropriate to liken your idea to another existing business/concept – e.g. ‘my idea is like the Airbnb for workspaces’). Airbnb is an American company that operates an online marketplace for lodging, primarily homestays for vacation rentals, and tourism activities.

You shouldn’t tell the other party EVERYTHING about you and your business in this elevator pitch! This will come through time. Here, the goal is to secure the next step, which may be a longer meeting to explore your concept further.

Focus on the one key message you really want the other party to remember after your pitch is finished.

Finally, much like a business plan, and many other aspects of business, an elevator pitch is never ‘done’. It should constantly be updated as you and your business develop. You can think of it as an iterative process, something we speak about a lot in this course!

© University of York
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