How to effectively pitch a business IDEA.•
Posted on June 27 2011
Having an idea is good. Developing it is exciting. Pitching it can be terrifying.
After all, you have a lot to lose, right? Rejection is a very personal and uncomfortable experience. The thought of someone dismissing an idea you believe in, one you spent time developing and almost inevitably fell in love with, is sickening.
It’s also the wrong way to approach the entire concept of pitching an idea. This is an opportunity for you to present an idea you’re crafting from nothing, out of mid-air; a product of your own inspiration, creativity and hard work. While there is no plug-in formula or paint-by-numbers plan for pitching an idea, it is important to keep in mind that the process of preparation requires substantially more time -- hours, days, weeks -- than actual pitch time. Regarded in this way, a pitch can be seen for what it really is: a performance.
With that being said, here are some tips on effectively pitching an idea.
Before developing your idea into a full pitch, find out precisely who the best person would be to hear it. Your boss may be a decent default choice, but he or she may not actually be the right person. It could be a company director, or the head of another department or someone at another company altogether. The most important consideration when pitching an idea is: finding an audience who has the power to implement your idea.
Once you’ve picked your target, continue to refer back to what you know about his business persona -- about his personality, and any other information you can find out about him. Your pitch should be developed so that it appeals to these traits. When pitching an idea, your job is to get him on your side by making him understand how and why your idea is feasible. So, if he’s a sports fan or a movie buff, subtly work an appropriately themed analogy into your pitch.
The idea is the reason why you’re here. Work with it, mold it and refine it until you can sum it up in a single sentence -- no matter how big or small the scope.
Everybody responds to stories, whether they’re aware of it or not, so tell a very basic story with your pitch and relate it to your core idea.
Don’t be afraid to pile on the challenges facing the implementation and success of your idea; after all, if it can’t overcome them, perhaps it’s not a very good idea to begin with. Thus, when addressing the various logistical or financial challenges facing your idea, approach it as though it were the middle of the story. The tougher the challenges, the greater the difficulties that must be overcome, and the better and more convincing your pitch becomes.
Transformation is the most crucial element to a satisfying story; how did this world or situation change compared to its state in the beginning? When pitching an idea, the lives, functions and processes should be described as being in an unsatisfactory state (i.e. chaotic, unstable, status quo), and by the end, you must accurately depict how your idea improves this initial state.
Pitching an idea is no walk in the park At the end of your pitch, the target should never be left wondering; “How does this idea make things better?” The change it alleges to enact is its reason for being, and should be palpably obvious.
So, unless you have some blockbuster stats, your presentation should go light on math and figures. Reserve the majority of your dry statistical evidence to address questions afterwards, or put it into a hard copy report you can leave with the target.
Ideally, you should pitch your idea in the perfect setting, to the right person and with all the time and materials you need. This is unlikely, however, so author and consultant Scott Berkun suggests preparing three versions of your pitch:
5 seconds: In this version, you have a fleeting moment to pitch your idea to your target, so be able to sum it up in a single sentence. Use simple, effective terms. Despite what you believe, virtually every idea, regardless of complexity, can be summed up this way.
30 seconds: Consider this version an abstract; open with your five-second intro and round it out with two or three strategically chosen points that help to give it life and dimension. This is sometimes referred to as an "elevator pitch."
5 minutes: Consider this the full version of your idea as outlined in the section above.
After pitching your idea, be prepared for additional questions along with planned responses to at least two of the possible answers you might get from your audience: yes or no.
If your target says, “I like what I hear. What do you need from me?” be armed with research that tells you precisely what you will need to carry out or execute your idea in terms of money , resources and more.
If the target says no, you are due an explanation, so make certain to find out why your pitch has been rejected. The information and experience should help you refine this process and put a better polish on your next pitch.
If you have never done anything like this before, take a look at the world around you, and remember: Virtually every man-made decision you see with any commercial significance -- company logo, office space, artistic endeavor, residential planning -- began as an idea that one person pitched to another. Also remember that you’re only seeing the pitches that succeeded, so imagine how many more failed.