Monday, November 08, 2010

Pitch an idea

I gave a pitch workshop last week at the University of Maine's Foster Center for Student Innovation. In my audience were students who hope to pitch at the I2V competition next week. $3K is up for grabs to spend on start-up needs.

The "elevator" pitch shows and YouTube videos about the "perfect pitch" show people, leaving the impression that only when you find yourself trapped for 30 seconds with a CEO should you be ready to pitch your idea.

Whether you're an entrepreneur or manage your work like with an entrepreneurial spirit, know what you want so that when the time is right, you can get it.

In reality, we pitch everyday. 

We spend a lot of time in day-to-day work tossing out ideas. The elements of the perfect pitch apply to much simpler moments, too:
  • You toss out an idea at a meeting that you want others to remember (even if it's just to get a group used to a new concept or idea)
  • You want a customer to remember to call you in three months when a new product or service will be available
  • You are at a meeting and you want to make sure people you meet or network with know what you do
  • You are at trade show and you need a few words to leave an impression
  • You're in a cab/car/walking with someone whose support is important and have a few minutes to say something 
Your opportunities to pitch come at unplanned times. Be ready:
  • Who are you? What do you do? What are you hoping to do in this role?
Example: "Hi, it's nice to meet you. I'm Toby. I own the Planet Ceramic on Main Street. People come in and pick pieces to paint in the store. I'm looking for ways to expand into the college market." 
  • What is your program? What are your goals?
Example: "I'm Jack Jones. I run the widget research program at the University of Widgets. We just patented a new modeling technology that increases the number of widgets that can be produced per minute. We're looking for investors."
  • Know the buzz words that get attention. 
Right now, the words, green, wind, eco-friendly, efficient, and more-with-less are appealing terms.
In other economic times, time-saving (even if it cost more), luxurious, deserved were buzz words that appealed to groups willing to spend money to save time, relax, enjoy.
  • Know what to say if you're asked more: What exactly does the technology you're working on do? You get two sentences. One to name the market and one to say what it does.
 Example: This name of technology is for audience It allows them to..."
 Your needs change over time, so your pitch needs to change as well. Take a minute and figure out what you want right now or at least this year so that when opportunities come your way, you can talk about it.

Make your pitch memorable and repeatable.

People need to be able to repeat what you want to do. I met two college students a few years ago who had a business venture they wanted to try. They stumbled around for several minutes and all I got out of it was something about restaurants and websites and menu. It took so long for them to explain that the one thing I knew was that they didn't know themselves. 

A few months later, I met these men again. This time when I asked, they had learned to talk about their venture, Market My Menu, and have taken it to fruition. 

It's exciting to watch ideas come to life.  

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