You’re waiting for an elevator in the lobby of the Rockefeller center. You’re alone – it’s dawn on a Sunday, the building is practically deserted. The elevator pings. You walk in.
Just before the doors sink together, a hand shoots in, halting their path.
Seconds later, Richard Branson is in the elevator with you. He pushes the button for the 31st floor. You have less than a minute in the company of one of the most influential people in the world.
You know you have to say something; a chance like this may never come along again. But every time you’ve given your pitch before, it’s been greeted by cold indifference. How can you make this one work? What went wrong last time?
It lacks passion
If you can’t speak about your startup with passion, you need to rediscover your excitement about your business. Delivering a pitch with no passion is a quick and easy way to guarantee no one will listen. If you don’t care about your business, no one else will, either.
Solution? Remember why you cared in the first place. Get excited about your product! It is unique and will change people’s lives; make sure you convey how important your product is to whoever you’re pitching to.
It’s not specific enough
“Wellwishing is a company that helps its clients. We make sure we provide the best service possible.” These two sentences, whilst nice in sentiment, are an awful introduction to a company. Every company should be helping their clients, and every company should be trying to provide the best service possible. You know what we don’t know? What service the company actually offers. Don’t be vague; make sure you assert early on exactly what your company does.
Solution? Read your pitch to a friend that knows nothing about your company. Afterwards, ask them what your company does. If they can’t summarise EXACTLY what is unique about your company, you need to reword your pitch.
You use nervous verbal fillers
Know what you want to say, and say it. Using verbal fillers will make you seem nervous, and unsure of yourself. You need to inspire confidence in your companion, and verbal fillers will not help you!
Solution? Want to know what your worst verbal habits are? Record yourself in conversation (with the other person’s permission!) and then listen back to it. You’ll soon enough hear any mistakes you’re making.
You’re not good at selling yourself one-to-one
Speaking to a small group, or one to one, is completely different to public speaking. You should be practicing your pitch in front of a mirror, in front of your family, in front of your friends. Ideally, practicing with strangers is best.
Solution? Some cities have startup meets, where you can meet people in a similar position to you. Pitching to them will be far less terrifying than pitching to potential investors, so give it a go! You never know, you might find a potential partnership there.
The pitch is too long
If your initial elevator pitch is taking longer than 30 seconds, we have a problem. Your pitch is the start of a conversation, not a speech! Say enough to make an impact, but not enough to have them looking at their watch.
Solution? Cut your pitch down to just the most important things! Use simple language and keep it brief. Under 100 words is a necessity.
It doesn’t connect
The main aim of your elevator pitch is to connect with the other person. A good elevator pitch makes things personal. If your pitch is detached and descriptive, this is never going to happen.
Solution? Using personal pronouns (particularly I and you) really helps people relate. Telling them a (short) anecdote about you founding the company is good, too. For example? “At my old job, I often created documents that included pictures. When I realised that the available word processing programmes wouldn’t let me edit images directly, I wanted to find a solution. DocIMG is the first word processing software that lets you edit images there and then, instead of needing to go back and edit the original image file. It saves you time and simplifies the creation of documents with images embedded.” [disclaimer: DocIMG is pure fiction!]
What do you think makes an elevator pitch fail?