When you're an entrepreneur, you have to live your life as if there's a new opportunity around every corner. And though meeting your future investor in a gilded elevator seems more like fantasy than fact, it's important to be prepared to sell your idea on the spot. After all, you never know who you may meet on any given day.
However, the art of the elevator pitch is a skill not quickly mastered. Often, you catch yourself babbling about unrelated nonsense instead of pointing out exactly what it is you do and why others should buy into your idea. If you're worried you don't have it quite right, it's best to just get out there and give it a try, according to Chris O'Leary, author of "Elevator Pitch Essentials". "Assume the first version isn’t going to be perfect, but get it out there so you can start figuring out what needs to be improved," he advised.
While condensing your years of work into a concise, one-minute presentation may seem impossible, there are key guidelines that can help you slim down to pitch-perfect form. To craft a great elevator pitch, here are five things you need to know.
1. Establish your credibility.
Often, you launch into your pitch without introducing yourself and your background, which can take you from believable business owner to outspoken stranger. "These people never explain why I should believe that what they are describing is actually a problem and that they are qualified to solve it," O'Leary said. "The world is full of 'idea people' who are strong on ideas and weak on execution –- and 95 percent of success comes down to execution. The surest way to establish that you are more than just an idea person is to establish and explain your credibility."
2. Your pitch needs to introduce your idea, not close the deal.
What most expect to be a quick overview of your business can easily spin out of control as you try to encompass all of the so-called important facts about your story. Taking people from beginning to end will likely leave them overwhelmed with information, and generally uninterested. "All you are trying to do, and realistically all you can do, is try to draw the listeners into a conversation," O'Leary. said "Give them a high-level overview of what you are talking about to see if that is something they are interested in. Only if they are interested should you start getting into the details."
3. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn.
Bragging about how many tricks your dog can do gets annoying. Being proud about your record-breaking quarter is captivating. "It's not bragging if it's true and relevant," O'Leary said. While many people feel self-conscious boasting about their business, it's important to stress the successes of your business and show your confidence in the endeavor. "Many women in particular have a problem giving good elevator pitches because they have been taught not to brag," O'Leary said. "As a result, their elevator pitches aren’t as compelling, or as credible, as they could be or need to be."
4. Have multiple versions prepared.
Being able to adjust to changing demands is a great quality of a business owner, and the same should go for your pitch. Whether you're at an event, an impromptu meeting or in a boardroom, you have to be able to modify your pitch to fit the environment and the audience. "Sometimes, as in a pitch competition or event, you have one to two minutes. Other times, as when introducing yourself to a room full of people, you have time for 25 words or less," O'Leary said. "Good pitchers have different versions of their elevator pitch that let them handle those situations and all of the situations in-between."
5. Capture your elevator pitch on video.
These days, anyone can film a high-quality video from just about anywhere, thanks to user-friendly phone technology and programs like iMovie. Why not take advantage and create a video component of your pitch? "The magic word is portability," said Jay Bailey, CEO of RapidFire Consulting, which produces short promotional videos. If venture capitalists like your idea, they're going to want to share it with their colleagues, but you run the risk of being misinterpreted if you're not there to make your pitch in person. Having a short, personal video allows them to take your pitch with them and share it with other potential investors.
Video also gives you the chance to demo your physical product and show others interacting with it. "Video gives your pitch a very human element, and allows you to communicate the same passion and emphasis as you would during an in-person presentation," Bailey said.