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Monday February 4th, 2013
So you’ve heard we’ve taken 12 startups from London and asked them to pitch their business in 30 seconds for our first series of The Elevator Pitch.
Could you do an even better job?
Before you rush out to the nearest office block, business cards and iPad at the ready, take the advice of Lee Warren from Invisible Advantage, on how to master the perfect pitch.
There are a lot of myths about the perfect pitch, Lee tells me as I lean forward with open body language and unblinking eye contact. The number one being that it’s all about body language. And eye contact.
In fact, if you’re told by a professional that 70% of what we communicate is through how we use our bodies, use yours to get up and leave.
I adjust my posture as he continues. What it needs to be about – and what it should be all about is your message.
There are three golden rules to pitching properly, Lee explains, and once you’ve mastered them selling your business should be straightforward.
First, you need to know who you’re pitching to. Then you need to know what you want them to get from your pitch.
Is your aim for your audience or potential investor just to ‘know about your business’ by the end? Probably not.
What you really want is money, or guidance, or both.
Once you’ve established that in your mind, it’s a lot easier. Finally, why aren’t you just emailing your pitch?
If you’re going to sell yourself in person, make sure you’re not effectively reading out a step-by-step email on powerpoint slides.
And don’t think its just powerpoint that’s a turnoff.
Be memorable, Lee says. If the guy after you is going to come in dressed à la Steve all jeans and turtleneck, macbook under-arm and presentation at the ready, are you going to stand out? You need to believe your audience will still remember you in three days time.
The most important thing, in Lee’s experience, is rehearsal. Think about the theatre, he says. In the biz, you need an hours practice for a minute’s performance, and that’s not far off for your business pitch.
You can’t be over rehearsed – and to help calm your nerves and focus your message, learn your first few lines verbatim. But don’t be fake. That’s where the theatre analogy ends. Don’t recite your whole pitch word for word. Otherwise you become more actor, than entrepeneur.
You should, though, research everything down to the very fine details - if you can, find out where you’ll be pitching, how far you’ll have to walk into the room and whether you’ll be standing or sitting. That way you won’t be doing anything for the first time when you actually do it.
(In the case of our elevator pitch video series, I suppose, you must rehearse entering lifts – your facial expression as the doors open, your glide in, your pressing of the button).
Lee comes back to rehearsal time and time again. He’s the Scoutmaster of pitching, repeating his motto ‘be prepared’. When I ask him about nerves, he says that the best cure is practice. Everyone I’ve worked with who has prepared performs better, he says. Nerves are good, but not if they slip you up and that’s less likely if you’re comfortable with what you’re saying.
But can Lee distil his teaching down to something that you can use to your advantage in the 30 seconds it takes to fall 37 floors of Heron Tower?
In a five minute pitch, you can get your message out and your audience can really engage with it. You can’t do that in an elevator, he tells me. In that space of time your goal should be to hear ‘that’s not what I do’ or ‘that sounds interesting, have you got a card/let’s do coffee’. In either case, you’ll know where you stand and where to go from there.
The biggest mistake you can make is trying to shout a five minute pitch, CV included, until your lift companion is clawing open the doors before you’ve even reached the ground floor.
Keep it simple, according to Lee.
Say who you are, and what you business or product is. Mention one thing that makes you, or your product, memorable, quirky or interesting. And say what you want – whether it’s investment, guidance, or someone you want to meet.
Often involve you not giving yourself, or your audience time to breath.
You have to treat your pitch like a date, Lee explains.
You need to explain your proposition and yourself, but go on too long without giving your ‘partner’ a chance to respond, and they’ll lose interest. Second, don’t give away too much. Of course you should cover all your main points , but if you try to squeeze in too many you’ll lose the excitement of your pitch.
And finally, it all comes back to being precise in your goals. The biggest mistake is not knowing clearly what your aim is, Lee tells me. If you don’t even know exactly what you’re looking for, how can you hope the person you’re pitching to will?
Following these tips will mean that when the pitch is over, you’ll feel calm and composed. Then all you need to worry about is the perfect handshake, but that’s for another time.