You have a great idea. You’ve created an amazing investor presentation. Things are happening! Now it’s time to get out there and tell your story. Start-up competitions and Demo Days are excellent opportunities to speak to audiences of hundreds, consisting of potential investors, strategic partners and even end users. The only catch: you’ve got to be able to get up on their stage and knock their socks off with a pitch that’s no longer than 60 seconds!
Is it possible? Absolutely!
In fact, even if you’re not planning on participating in these kinds of events and are meeting with people who will give you a full 15-30 minutes to present, you should definitely know how to introduce your venture in a way that captures the imagination in no more than 60 seconds. Doing so will help you understand your own venture so much better, leaving you with a clearer, much more focused understanding of what your venture is really all about.
The good news is that building an amazing 60 second pitch is much easier than you may think. Here are the four components of an amazing 60 second pitch:
1. Start with a powerful opening.
Before you can capture your audience’s imagination, you need to capture their attention.
If you’re the first speaker of the evening, then most of your audience is still mingling, eating, getting comfortable in their seat or finishing up a text message.
If you’re somewhere in the middle of the presentation order, there’s a good chance your audience is still lingering on one of the previous presentations that really sounded good to them.
If you’re last – your audience is just plain tired.
That’s why you need to kick off your 60 second pitch with a powerful opening. This could be a big number (statistic) relating to the massive scope of the problem you’re solving or of the opportunity you are trying to tap into. It could be an interesting quote by an industry leader you expect your audience knows of and respects. It could be a question to the audience (“Raise your hands if…”) or just a rhetorical question that simply grabs their attention. It could even be a gimmick where you get up on stage dressed in a certain way or with a curious or funny prop in your hands (I’ve seen this done many times and it mostly works).
Allocate 10-15 seconds to your powerful opening and make sure that it’s done in a way that clearly communicates the space your venture is in (transportation, fashion, big data, tourism, dating, gaming, cyber security, etc.).
2. Presenting the core essence of your venture.
Think about an airplane. Now, imagine you are speaking with a person who’s never seen one in their life, and try to explain what it is in less than 15 seconds. The shortest description I have ever come across was the one the Write Brothers: “Machines that fly”. But I don’t think this really captures the essence of airplanes in the business sense of it. Can you do better? Before you continue reading, stop and try to do it yourself.
“An airplane is a vehicle that can take hundreds of people at a time, from NYC to San Francisco in less than 6 hours, while flying in the air”.
29 words in 9 seconds.
Now, think about how complex of an innovation airplanes are. Think about the technology involved. Still – the entire essence can be condensed into 29 words and there’s no doubt that 200 years ago, this would have captured the imagination of investors and audiences hearing this for the very first time.
Here’s another highly complex and remarkably innovative invention that can be clearly communicated in an interesting way in only 8 seconds.
The moral of the story is, that there is no real correlation between how innovative or complex your venture is and how much time you need to communicate its core essence. There is however a direct correlation between how well you understand your innovation and how concisely you can describe it. Airplanes and microwaves are remarkable innovations, but because they are so deeply integrated into our daily lives – we understand their value almost intuitively and can therefore describe them in just a few words. As an entrepreneur, you are in a race against time to reach such an intuitive understanding of the value your venture is creating and when you get there, mere seconds will be enough to communicate it.
All you need to communicate in your pitch’s first 30 seconds is:
- The space your venture is in (transportation, food, etc.).
- The value it brings to the world (travel farther much faster, heat your food faster).
- The innovative nature of your venture (a flying vehicle, heating food really quickly and without fire).
3. Show off your traction (what you’ve accomplished to date).
Now it’s time to show your audience that you’re not just some starry eyed dreamer with ambitious dreams but that you are a real doer who can make things happen. This is where you spend 15-20 seconds telling about the progress you have made so far.
If you’re a later stage venture, talk about advisers you were able to recruit, money you have already raised, strategic partnerships you have already forged, customers you’ve already acquired and of course, when possible, revenue you’ve already generated and patents you’ve already filed or gotten approved.
If however you’re a very early stage venture and have little to no traction to show, don’t worry about it. Talk instead about your team and their past track record. Don’t under-estimate the importance of having an amazing team. Chances are that in the next 6-18 months, your venture will evolve and change (pivot) and seasoned investors know this. More and more investors look at the people they are entrusting their money to. They want to know that you are experienced, that you know how to make tough decisions, that you have a good social and professional network, the right education, etc.
4. Ending with a clear and enticing call to action.
Audiences are passive entities by nature. They need to be pro-actively managed. It’s not enough to just capture their attention for 60 seconds. An amazing pitch drives people to action and you should do your best to define that action. That’s why your closing remarks must include a very clear call to action, tailored to your most immediate needs. If you’re looking to raise money, end with “We are currently raising capital and if there are investors in the audience, please come find me – we’d love to tell you more about our venture.” If you’re looking for partners or distributors, end with “We are currently building our distribution network and are looking for partners in the West Coast – if you’re interested or know of someone that is, please come speak with me.” If you simply trying to build you’re user base or further your product validation stage, end with “Now we are currently still in our Beta staged and if anyone here would like to participate, please come find me”.
The idea is to give the most relevant members of your audience a clear direction of that you need from them, in the most actionable way.
Remember: a 60 second pitch is not about proving that your business is viable, or that you can beat your competitors (that’s what an investor deck is all about) or even about raising money! It’s about getting face time with qualified prospects. Once you’ve gotten these meetings, you will be given ample time to defend the business viability of your venture.