Have you ever failed miserably when trying to pitch an idea? Felt your energy draining away with every word leaving your mouth? And getting only halfway through your presentation before your boss started pummeling you with skeptical questions? Well… perhaps you should have prepared an elevator pitch.
Most of us rely on other peoples support to get our work done, whether we work in an organization or as freelancers. Sometimes you need to sell or get funding for an idea. In that case you have to convince some decision makers.
But you’ll also need the support of other people around you besides the boss. You’ll need the support and passion of people participating in your project. And on a broader scale you’ll need a lot of people knowing about and accepting your project, to keep them from getting in your way.
To do this you need to convince everybody that you know what you’re talking about, and that it’s of outmost importance. This is what well designed elevator pitch will do for you. It's the essence of your idea told in 60 seconds.
It’ll let you catch peoples attention, convince them of the importance of your project, and it’ll build their confidence in you. They’ll believe that you know what you talk about.
Here’s how to do it...
Get your listener hooked
Why should I care about your idea? I’m busy! And so are most of your colleagues probably. So catching their attention won’t be easy. You need a great start for your pitch. A great hook.
A good hook will be something surprising and unexpected. “Do you know we’re about to lose our largest customer to the competition? Well I have plan!” Is a basic one. It grabs the listeners attention. But please feel free to be more creative.
Know your Value Proposition
To be able to make an effective elevator pitch you need to get a firm grib of your value proposition. You can’t explain something in a short time, if you don’t know exactly what you are talking about.
I use a simple framework called an NABC for this. This is the method I learned at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park California, one of the world leading research and development firms. They have used and developed the NABC as way to ensure that all projects have considered the four basic parameters of value creation:
Need: Tell about the user need for your service. Be concrete and specific. What is the problem you're solving? Who has this problem? Real people with real problems are at the core of every value creation. You need to know these NEEDS to convince others of the relevance of your idea.
Approach: How do you solve this problem specifically? What is your take on solving it? Don’t get to specific. You’ll get a chance to tell more later. Right now you just need the general concept.
Benefits: What are the benefits of using your approach? What value does it generate for the users. Wat value does it create for your company. The more specific the better.
Competition: What is the alternative approaches in the market for solving the problem. How does your solution stand out? Is it better, faster or cheaper? This is a big one with corporate brass. Idea people tend to talk at length about their solutions but forget to tell anything about competition. This is suicide. Make your listener sure that you have a new approach that isn’t already solved by someone else.
The trick is to tell it like a story. So the more concrete and human the better. Great communicators often excel at telling relevant stories, when they are giving a talk on a subject. And this very clever, cause stories are in their nature memorable.
Paint pictures with your words. Make it about people instead of numbers. What horrible conditions are these people struggling under, and how will your idea make their lives better?
And be passionate when you’re telling your story. Make other people care by caring yourself.
What are you asking for?
And finally, and very important, know what you want to achieve with your pitch. An amazing number of people forget this, and it’s quite embarrasing to see someone passionately promoting a cause, but neglecting to suggest a concrete action to be taking. So now it’s up to the listener to figure out what to do.
What are you asking for? Support? Funds? Attention? Point it out to the listener.
Often you just want the opportunity to get some time to tell about your idea in more detail, before making a deal. But sometimes you just want your listeners to think your project is cool and important, that’s ok as well.
If you have prepared the basic framework of your elevator pitch you’ll often be able to adapt it on the spot to a variety of listeners just by having a different “I would like you to” In the ending.
Preparing a solid elevator pitch will let you benefit when these opportunities suddenly appears. And as a byproduct it’ll force you to understand the essence of your idea.
- Jens Poder