As an entrepreneur, you are going to need to give the pitch for your business constantly. Effective pitching opens a lot of opportunities for startups, including direct sales, meetings with investors, and admittance into accelerators and competitions. Whether you are delivering a planned presentation, giving your 30 second elevator pitch, or just dropping a single sentence summary, you will encounter a wide range of situations where you will need to quickly communicate what your company is about, and why people should be excited about it.
One of your goals should be to whittle your pitch down to a single sentence. One of my favorite examples is a recent startup called Washio. Washio is an app where customers enter how much laundry and dry cleaning they need washed and then choose when they want it picked up and returned. A Washio “ninja” then comes to the customer’s house, picks up their clothes, and brings them back when they’re clean. Everything is paid through the app and customers are only charged upon delivery of their clean clothes.
Or, to communicate that whole paragraph in four words, Washio is: “the Uber of laundry.”
In four words, that phrase communicates what they do (bring laundry service to you, on demand) and why you should be excited about it (you don’t have to deal with your laundry). In the beginning, it will be difficult to summarize your business so succinctly. It will likely take you between two and five minutes to describe to people what you do, the problem your business solves, and why they should care. In Washio’s case, it helps that there is a well-known, existing app for a different service (Uber), whose concept Washio can easily co-opt to explain their own. If you can do something similar, go for it, otherwise, just keep honing until you have a compelling one sentence summary.
Most people imagine pitching in a controlled situation, like a pitch competition, but the vast majority of the time, you’ll be pitching on the fly. That’s why the famous “elevator pitch” is necessary, and you should become adept at delivering it as if it’s the first time, every time. If the person is intrigued, they will either ask you follow-up questions, or arrange to talk more in the near future. And if you find peoples’ eyes glaze over during your 30 second pitch, or don’t understand what you do by the time you finish, then you need to rework it so that it’s clearer and more exciting.
You will also need to be ready to deliver your pitch in casual conversation. You should begin with your one sentence summary, or drop a few juicy parts of the business to bait the person to ask you more. If they bite, then you can move on to your one minute pitch and progress from there if they are still asking questions. Since you will spend so much time doing more formal pitches (like at networking events or business meetings), it can be tempting in casual situations to give a lackluster pitch or show visible signs of being disinterested in sharing. Even when you’re not, you are always interested in talking about your business. You never know how a casual conversation could end up helping you, and the more often you do a subpar pitch, the more that will become your norm, and leak into more formal settings. It can be emotionally exhausting, but being an entrepreneur means constantly being on your toes.
Even when you’re not technically selling your product, as a startup founder, you are constantly selling both your business and yourself. You will be challenged with many scenarios that require different kinds of pitches, from longer and more formal presentations in controlled environments, to one sentence pitches in casual conversations. It will often feel like you’re constantly telling people what you do and it will be difficult to make your pitch sound fresh every time, but it is imperative that you master the ability to communicate the essence of your business succinctly, while generating enthusiasm about your concept. Crafting a killer pitch will create a lot of opportunities for your business and is a basic and critical part of starting a company.
Jack Fischl is a co-founder at Keteka.com - a website that connects travelers with authentic tours and activities in Latin America and allows them to book their experiences online.