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Elevator Pitches

By way of confession, Tudog has never really liked elevator pitches. In the frenzied times of the Internet bubble, elevator pitches were introduced as a way for companies seeking funding to reach out to venture capitalists who were seeing hundreds of deals a week. The idea was that if they (the VCs) could get the fund seekers to give them a boiled down (30 second – as if during a single elevator ride) overview of the business, they would be able to determine whether it interested them enough to want to hear more. Tudog saw this as (a) awfully arrogant, (b) nearly impossible, and (c) most likely a recipe for some really bad investments. As we saw it, if a company can actually say all there is to say about their product, market, business model and management in 30 seconds then they haven't thought enough about these critical things. And if an investment company only has an interest in judging companies based on 30 seconds, then they are not taking their responsibilities very seriously. Elevator pitches, we claimed, were silly. Giving a company 30 seconds indeed forces them to pinpoint their core competencies and value to the market, but it also teaches them to throw out all the “how to” that form the very foundations of a good business. What you would wind up with were great ideas with no business models.
Our resistance to the very idea of the elevator pitch has discouraged us from writing an article on it, even as the practice became more and more integrated into the way companies raise money. Today the elevator pitch is still in use, but the craziness around it has died down and many have come to realize that it cannot be, and should not be, anything more than a brief introduction (a teaser) to the more in-depth explanations that must certainly follow. Companies no longer stand or fall on the strength of their 30 second elevator pitch. To this we say Amen, and reward the sanity with this article - a how-to for the excellent elevator pitch.

Tudog has seven helpful hints for the construction and delivery of an excellent elevator pitch. They are:

1. Focus – naturally with only 30 seconds, or the equivalent thereof on paper, you have very little choice but to say what you need to say in an extremely concise manner. Winston Churchill once said that if he is asked to speak for 2 hours he needs 15 minutes to prepare, but if he is asked to speak for 15 minutes, he needs 2 hours to prepare. Do not underestimate the difficultly of being direct and to the point. You need to decide what you have to say and then focus on it with complete determination.

2. Name Your Benefit – remember, the one thing the potentially funding source (or potential client) will be looking for is an answer to the question "what problem does this solve"? You need to make certain that you deliver the answer in your pitch. Be very clear: this is the problem, and this is how it is solved or relieved.

3. Anticipate Their Questions – in every capital recruitment or sales scenario it is always critical that you understanding who it is you are going to be standing in front of and what information they want to receive. In your elevator pitch you need to anticipate their questions and provide them with enough information to ensure that they will want to hear more in a longer and more comprehensive meeting.

4. Be Clear - one of the biggest challenges in explaining a product or technology is doing so in simple terms. You know your product very well, and you might even be the techie who came up with a really cool technology. But if you explain using short cuts (internal company or industry accepted abbreviations) or you get too technical, you'll find you audience will walk away with nothing. You do not have time during an elevator pitch to get into particulars, so stay away from them. Like they used to say on Dragnet – just the facts.

5. Get Their Attention – keeping in mind that you only have 30 seconds, so it is pretty hard to lose their attention during that sure time, it is also hard to gain their attention because before they (and you) know it, it is all over. If you never had their attention then, obviously your pitch will prove unmemorable, and ultimately a failure. So gain their attention from the first sentence by saying something that makes certain they'll want to hear the rest of what you have to say. Most effective are facts pertaining to the problem you are solving, particularly a fact that challenges what most likely was their existing understanding of the situation.

6. Be Passionate – nothing will stay with your audience more than how you presented. With only 30 seconds to make an impression, the elevator pitch boils down to personality. Make sure you show a great deal of enthusiasm, confidence in your abilities and passion for your product. The impression you make will be the impression your product makes.

7. End Strong – although the ending comes so soon in a 30 second period, make sure you end strong by restating your solution, your capabilities and your potential. Then set the stage for their follow up by challenging your audience to look closer at your company and the benefit an association can bring to them.

Elevators are not impossible. We watch 30 second commercials all the time that succeed in telling us a story, with a beginning, middle and end. They share with us the product, its benefits, and often its image. These commercials show us it can be done. Despite Tudog's wondering why it should be done this way, the reality is that elevator pitches are now a business necessity. Prepare and perfect yours. You never know when it's your 30 seconds of fame.

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