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Your Elevator Pitch is Important for YOU

20 Oct

It was StartupWeek 2017 in Seattle, recently. It was a time when anyone with a startup or an idea to start a business was roaming the city’s talks, gatherings, and events to learn how to become a success. Networking and chatting was a big part of the activity, so I got to hear a lot of people try to describe their ideas. I noticed that many of those early in their startup are not very clear about what they are trying to do or they take 20-minutes before they are… they have no elevator pitch.

What is an Elevator Pitch?

Can you encapsulate the essence of your startup idea so that you can express it in the time it takes to travel a few floors of an elevator? If you were to meet the person that could most help you with your startup, as you enter an elevator, can you clearly articulate and spark their interest before either of you exit the elevator?

An elevator pitch encapsulates a description of your startup, its meaning and purpose, in as few words as possible.

Why is An Elevator Pitch Important?

At every stage of the evolution of a startup, you will need help. Whether looking for employees, co-founders, investors, advisors, or customers, you will need to pique their interest quickly. You’ll want them to say, “I want to hear more!” You want them to invite you to follow them off the elevator.

In an elevator, you have a captive audience; but you will only hold their attention for so long. Of course this even more true outside an elevator where it is more difficult to hold their attention. So, it is important to keep your pitch succinct.

Why Else is an Elevator Pitch Important?

Okay, if you are already familiar with what an elevator pitch is, then I haven’t told you anything new. The real reason why it is important for you to create an elevator pitch is to help you crystallize your startup idea. The process of building and refining a pitch forces you to think very carefully about your idea. It forces you to narrow in on the essence of your idea… to identify the most salient elements of your idea. In that process, it might even help you set priorities for your startup.

Get into the habit of iterating your elevator pitch. As your startup lives, it evolves. It’s goals may change. A pitch should correspond to the changes that are occurring to the company. Regular updating of the elevator pitch might highlight changes that you did not anticipate and allow you to encourage or halt changes, as you see fit. It will certainly ensure that your message matches what you are building.

What Does an Elevator Pitch Look Like?

There are a lot of books, blogs, and advice (like my prior post) about what should be covered in a startup elevator pitch. At a minimum, you should identify what the problem is that you are trying to solve and how you are solving it.

How long should an elevator pitch be? Simply, as short as possible. Elevator rides can vary—you will have varying amounts of time to present your message. Start with a 3-minute pitch. Then work on shortening it to 2-minutes… 90-seconds… 60-seconds… 30-seconds! Ideally, you would be able to describe your company in a sentence or two.

Cutting words is not easy, but this exercise of paring down your message forces you to evaluate your company’s purpose. It is important to present a focused, achievable idea in the pitch message. If the idea is being lost as words are cut, then perhaps the company’s goals need to be simplified or scaled back. Or, you need to prioritize goals so that a message can focus on a narrower set of primary objectives.

Should you interest someone enough for them to want to hear more, be prepared to present longer descriptions. As the talks get longer, they begin to sound more like your full-fledged presentations. But, be prepared to work within any time-constraint you might be faced with. You can build out to 5-, 10-, 20-minute presentations. With longer pitches and presentations, you should create different versions targeted at different audiences, as necessary.

Eventually, you will have a range of pitches from a couple of sentences to a full-presentation at your fingertips—and on the tip of your tongue.

An Elevator Pitch Informs Others and Yourself

It is important to get your message across, quickly, as you meet people who might be helpful to your startup. Just as important, creating an elevator pitch will force you to identify and prioritize the “minimum viable product” of your idea.

  1. Research the elements of what goes into a startup elevator pitch
  2. Isolate the essence of your startup
  3. Articulate your startup in 3-minutes (or less)
  4. Further net out essential elements of your startup and your message for shorter versions of your pitch
  5. Longer presentation-pitches can fill the gaps between your elevator pitch and a full presentation.

Having a concise pitch means you had to identify the focus of your company. Continually adjusting your pitch to match your evolving startup keeps you in-tune with your venture. This, in itself, will improve your understanding of your company and allow you to sharpen its focus.

 
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