How to sell your idea? Nail your elevator pitch

12 October 2018

Go online and google “how to pitch an idea?” − and you’ll find thousands of blog posts on the matter. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that pitching is a relevant skill in any setting where you are trying to close a deal with another person − whether it’s a deal to get money, to get time to work on your project, or even to convince others to join your project (e.g., future employees).


In all of these instances, you know something the others do not yet know: namely, that your idea is brilliant! And now, it’s your job to convince those others of that too. That’s where pitching comes into play. There are 2 things to think about when tailoring your pitch: the content of your pitch (i.e. what are you going to say?), and the way that you deliver your pitch (i.e. how are you going to say it?).


With regard to the content of your pitch, my advice is to start with nailing your value proposition. If you have only 20 seconds for your pitch, that’s the part you most definitely need to have covered: what is the problem or need you are addressing (i.e. the pain), how will you address it (i.e. your solution and how this is different from existing solutions), and who are you doing this for (i.e. your customer). Remember that your customer may also be an internal one (e.g., your CFO).


Once you’ve nailed this part, it’s time to convince your audience that this is an opportunity worth pursuing and that this is more than just an idea. The best way to do this is to include facts and figures: e.g., on your market size or the size of estimated cost savings, your underlying revenue model, your competition, trends you are playing into, or any milestones you may have already achieved (show us what you have done). Finally, oddly enough, one of the things people often tend to forget to include in their pitch (or any presentation for that matter) is information on who they are: tell us why you are the best man or woman for the job. Do not assume that everyone knows you.


Equally important to content is the way that you deliver your pitch. Most of us, at one time or another, have had to sit through one of those nightmare presentations that read more like a Word document than a PowerPoint presentation. It’s absolutely key to remember that, the more text you put on your slides, the less people will actually listen to what you are saying − they’ll be busy trying to read what is on your slide.


If you feel some people in your audience may want more detail (e.g., due to their expertise), you can always either include backup slides that have more information (for Q&A, for instance) or provide handouts that show more detail (e.g., this can be very handy for financials). Focusing on the essentials also means you need to keep your storyline simple − avoid geek-speak in your pitch. While the extent of technical detail to be included will depend heavily on your target audience, most people tend to overestimate their audience’s expertise. Think of the average person you will be pitching to and stick to their level of expertise. Knowing your audience is also important for fine-tuning the content of your pitch: an investor or Executive Committee will be more interested in financials.


• Stay attentive when you are not speaking during a group pitch
• Do not turn your back to the audience to read your slides
• Don’t give too many details
• Keep it simple
• Be aware of your audience: are they looking for a coach, an investor... ?
• Practice a lot and try out your presentation on different people (both technical and non-technical)

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