Q: My company has announced a competition to find the most entrepreneurial staff member. There is a tidy cash prize, and it would be great for my career if I could win. I have a good business idea, which taps into a need I have spotted from my involvement in rallying, but I have no clue how to go about the three-minute pitch. Any tips? (EF, email ).
A: Here are a few pointers I would offer from my own experience in similar scenarios and from helping clients to prepare pitches:
1. If you haven't prepared properly, you will breeze past three minutes without even getting to the point. You must put in significant preparation to pare back your talk until it lasts no longer than two minutes and 40 seconds – it’s good to have that 20-second breathing space in case anything goes wrong on the day.
2. First, outline the pain or the problem. Almost every product fixes a problem. What is the exact problem? Is it rallying drivers not being able to hear the co-pilot beside them? Is it windows fogging up at high speed?
3. What is the impact of the problem? Does it cause crashes? Do drivers lose races because of it? Does it result in increased costs for car manufacturers? In the first 40 seconds of your presentation, clearly outline the problem and its impact. Bring the listener into the story so that after 40 seconds they see exactly what you are talking about. Otherwise, your solution will die on the vine. People drift away very quickly.
4. What does your solution offer? Does it solve the full problem? Will it reduce costs or increase safety? What exactly is your solution going to achieve? Be modest in what you attempt to resolve. Overpromising is a major problem in pitches: you are not obliged to fix everything, but you need to be clear about what exactly you are going to fix. Avoid getting too nerdy about the technicalities (founders are often far too deeply in love with the actual solution ) but you need to give them a clear idea about how the problem will be resolved.
5. What is the value of the solution? How big is the market you hope to achieve? Don’t throw millions and billions at it just to make it look impressive. But don't go too far down the register either.
6. Why are you the person to do this? Have you specialist skills, contacts or knowledge? Have you done something similar before? Have you a burning desire to do this now? While the competition your company has set up is slightly artificial, you must approach it as if you’re deadly serious about this opportunity. Who knows – it might go somewhere?
7. To recap, the critical error many pitchers make is to get too excited about the nuts and bolts of the solution. That's not as interesting as you might think to an audience. They're way more interested in the problem, the value of the solution and why you are the person to back. And remember, three minutes is no time if you don't prepare well and tighten your pitch. It’ll be all over before you know it and they won’t appreciate the opportunity your product represents.
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