The Five Essential Elements Of A Good Pitch

Nearly every week for the past two years, my colleague Geoff Brash and I have coached people to deliver five-minute pitches. We’ve seen people pitching for money and for customers, for staff and for beta testers. We’ve seen pitches that are persuasive, funny, compelling, vague, wandering, insecure.

With each one, we learn. We learn more about what works and what doesn’t. We learn more about what resonates with us and what turns us off. We learn more about exceptions to rules. And we thought it was time to share some of it. Without further ado, here are the five essential elements of a good pitch:

1. A good pitch should let people understand what you do. One of the most surprising mistakes we see over and over again is that people either fail to articulate what they’re talking about or articulate it in a way that is difficult to follow. What is *the thing* you’re trying to pitch? Is it a product or a service? What does it do? Who is it for?



You should be able to articulate this in fewer than 10 words. If your business is incredibly complex, you can always elaborate later. But the first description of the thing should be almost unbelievably brief. Some people use the “We are the X of Y” formula. For some it’s not so simple; Jenni Adams, who spoke at our last TEDxChristchurch, is “studying neutrinos from outside the galaxy.” I don’t know what that means either -- that's where the elaboration comes in. But in the first instance, “studying neutrinos from outside the galaxy” is all you need.

2. A good pitch should let people understand why you do it. This can be as profound as Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” -- a vision for how the entire world is going to be radically different, better, more humane and egalitarian because you are able to pursue and implement your dream. Or it could be as simple as articulating the problem you’re solving. Either way, you can’t just say you have a widget. You have a widget to deal with X issue, to respond to Y frustration, to make the world better in Z way.

The entire “what you do and why you do it” can generally be encapsulated in a single sentence. “We sell cool shoes so we can give free shoes to people who need them.” “We study extra-galactic neutrinos to understand more about the way the universe works.” Don’t overcomplicate things.

3. A good pitch will let people believe you can deliver on it. Pitching is a persuasive act. You are trying to get people to invest in you, to buy from you, to work for you, to hire you. You are trying to get people to understand you and feel confident about what you’re offering. This will only happen if they believe you can do it.

4. A good pitch will let people know what’s in it for them. In order to address this, you need to know two things: the purpose of your pitch, and what your audience cares about. Is the purpose of your pitch to get investment? Then your audience may care about ROI, the safety of their capital, strategic synergies with other businesses in their portfolio, or something else. If you don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish and what your audience cares about, your pitch will fall flat.

5. Finally, a good pitch will let people know how they can take action. This is where the “ask” comes in. Whatever you’re after, say so: staff, funding, customers, etc. Include contact info. Don’t make people work to figure out how they can get involved.

I haven’t looked at your start-up yet, so I can’t offer any assurances as to whether following this advice will make your pitch a success. But I can tell you that not following it will definitely hurt you.

Break a leg, and let me know how it goes.

1 comment about "The Five Essential Elements Of A Good Pitch".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, December 13, 2014 at midnight


Next story loading loading..