Going up: mastering the elevator pitch
Kathleen Fritzsche is co-founder and head of marketing at Accelerate Stuttgart and StartUp Stuttgart, the entrepreneurial community for the Neckar Valley and Baden-Wuerttemberg regions in Germany. She has been captivated by the startup community since attending the first Startup Weekend in Stuttgart in 2010.
The brief, structured presentation of your business concept – the so-called “elevator pitch” – is a central element in garnering acceptance and enthusiasm for your business idea.
An elevator pitch can last anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes depending on the situation. A key factor? Make sure you have thoroughly thought through the ins and outs of your idea before presenting it to larger audiences or potential capital investors. Initial feedback from your personal network and people who know your industry is incredibly valuable. These kinds of connections bring in new perspectives and helpful hints. The best thing to move you forward is critical thinking and shedding light on potential weaknesses early on.
Then it’s time to start keenly developing your pitch. In it, you should be addressing the who, what, why, and how. Always keep your eye on the ball. Who is in your audience (target group)? If you absolutely have to present with PowerPoint, keep it down to ten concise slides. In my opinion, the best pitches are delivered freely, without presentation slides or aids.
What is the benefit/value of your business idea for potential customers? What need will your product of service meet? Have you already collected precise feedback in the form of customer surveys? Why is your product better than that of the competition (keyword: unique selling point – USP)? This is where good story-telling comes in – the ability to inspire enthusiasm by persuading listeners to get on board. Personal anecdotes highlighting problems and their solutions are worth their weight in gold. Important: Always start with the problem you aim to solve, never open with the solution, and always be sure to avoid too much complexity!
Who is behind your business idea? What skills and experience does each member of your team bring to the table, which might be particularly important in developing your business concept? Has anyone stepped forward who is willing and able to fill the management role? Do you believe in your idea, even if it might not initially drive in the big bucks?
Why do you want to implement your idea? What exactly do you hope to achieve with your business? To actually provide a solution to a problem in hopes of making the world a better place? Or just the quick setup and reselling of your business?
How do you plan to implement the business idea? What does your business model look like? How much startup capital will you need to get going? Are you already turning a profit? Actual, clear numbers are required here. If you already have a prototype for your product or service, take it along to the pitch or present photos that help you tell the story.
You’re bound to be nervous before and during the pitch itself. Whatever you do, don’t try to overcompensate by learning your pitch by heart. Be structured, but also allow for some improvisation. Simple, clear and catchy statements are ideal for this. Also, keep an eye on your body language: Good, open posture is a must – and keep those hands out of your pockets! Practice makes perfect. The more you present your business idea, the more comfortable you’ll become – and that will work wonders for your performance.
After the pitch, be prepared to answer some questions. Depending on the situation, this could take about five minutes. Serious conversations with potential investors can last two hours or more. Be well prepared for the question and answer period, and try to bring in some of the information you couldn’t include in the pitch itself. Best of luck to you for your next pitch!