When my co-founder Jordan Klein and I of Park and Diamond won Red Bull Launchpad, a collegiate contest that “gives wings” to student entrepreneurs by supporting their initial ideas and concepts, we were flown to San Francisco to attend TechCrunch Disrupt. As a major tech conference that thousands of young entrepreneurs would kill to attend, to say we were excited would be an understatement. However, at the event we were up against some of the most brilliant minds in the country, competing for the attention of investors that could change the trajectory of our business. We had to learn the art of a successful elevator pitch very quickly.
To spare you the trouble of learning the hard way, from our experience and observations on the TechCrunch Battlefield, it all boils down to this: a large part your success will be determined by how well you are able to talk about what it is you do, and how compellingly you can explain why others should care.
At Park & Diamond, our mission is simple. We want to save lives. We do this by creating sleek, collapsible bike helmets that you’ll want and are easily able to wear. Why should I care, you may ask? Often there’s a social stigma around the traditional bulky, uncomfortable headgear, which I admit I previously hadn’t given it much thought. But after my sister wound up in a four-month coma following a nasty hit-and-run bike accident near her college campus, I cared. Fortunately for us, my sister has recovered back to her old self, but for many, that’s not the case. Thousands of Americans wind up injured or killed as the result of cycling accidents each year, many of which could be prevented or minimized with the use of proper safety precautions. By altering helmets to fit people’s lifestyles, we make it easier for people to cycle safely.
Our business pitch wasn’t finalized on the first draft. When a project is near and dear to your heart, it can be hard to boil down your message. Especially in the convoluted tech industry, it can feel daunting — even if you believe earnestly in your brand. So how do you effectively communicate your message once you’re in front of the eyes that matter most? Here are five key components to developing the perfect pitch for your business.
Have a Compelling Hook to Reel People In
You should be able to clearly convey your mission in a sentence or two, which should include the problem your business is working to solve. Most people will stop listening after 15 seconds unless you give them a compelling reason to pay attention.
Our hook is, “On average over 85,000 Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries each year as the result of cycling crashes, costing the healthcare industry over $4 billion dollars each year, with an untold emotional cost to friends and family; we are Park & Diamond and we are changing this.”
This is your opportunity to tell them the “why” of your business, so make sure your hook is relatable.
Clearly Define Your Message
Most times, you’ll only get a small window of time to pitch your product, so shorten your message and brand purpose to one single sentence. Have a concise elevator pitch on hand, something like “We are improving cycling safety with our collapsible bike helmet that fits into the size of a water bottle, so it’s easily carried or stored on the bike for when you need it next.” Be clear, be succinct.
Speak Your Audience’s Language
Understand who your audience is and how to effectively communicate with them. If you use too many technical terms or industry jargon, you may confuse people and lose their attention. In addition, using convoluted jargon can come off as being disingenuous and convey a message of arrogance. Mold your communication style to mirror the audience you’re speaking to.
Include a Highlight Reel
Anytime you talk about your product, the listener summarizes the information you gave in their minds before filing it into long term memory (you hope!). Control how people remember your brand by summarizing your message. After a conversation, we include an “opportunity summary” that recaps our unique competitive advantages and ends the talk on a very positive note. It is an excellent way to leave your audience with the top three takeaways of your message.
Engage with Others
The most important thing to remember about pitching your business is to share it with others! Red Bull Launchpad was an incredible opportunity for us to share our message and engage with other businesses and innovators. Through these conversations and resources, we gained invaluable lessons and feedback on our marketing plan. The power of networking is a very real thing. Engaging with others, regardless of experience and expertise, can provide invaluable insights and challenge your way of thinking.