Crafting an effective elevator pitch

2 04 2008

Last Friday I attended an elevator pitch competition at the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. When I arrived and discovered that registration for the competition was still open, I thought for about five seconds about registering…but since I could only stay for an hour, I decided it would be best to sit in and see what I could learn from others who were pitching their ideas.

The first hour of the competition featured pitches from about ten Purdue students, who were given two minutes to brief someone on their business idea. I wish I had been able to stay for the non-student portion of the competition (the pitches probably would have been better), though I learned a few things about what not to do when pitching an idea. Here are a few of the things I thought were missing from the pitches that I heard:

Begin with a question, or pique the person’s interest
It’s tempting to just launch into why the idea is great, but only a few pitches I heard actually hooked me within the first few seconds. Those began with a question or relevant story, statistic, or example.

Keep the pitch relevant
The most common question asked by the man in the elevator after the pitch had been given was basically “so what?”. Why is this idea relevant today? How is your solution different from everyone else’s? Spouting off facts about the market size and product design don’t mean anything if the elevator man can’t understand what the product really does and how it is unique.

End with a call to action
Too many pitches ended with the elevator man saying, “Ok, I’ll look into that”. Only one entrepreneur actually left the elevator man with a product example (in this case it was soybean playdough), and only one directly asked for a follow-up session in which he could explain in more detail his business idea.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to creating an effective elevator pitch, and others have done a much better job covering this topic than me. One site in particular lists a comprehensive set of elevator pitch essentials, which I will probably never get around to totally reviewing (though the articles I’ve read have been helpful).

I also don’t yet have a written elevator pitch, though I was able to give a summary of my idea for climbing gym software to a manager from Motorola that I met that same day. He was impressed with the idea, and with the steps I’ve taken so far to test and refine the software. For me the conversation raised a major question about whether I actually want to pursue outside investment, which will be the subject of another post…

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2 responses

2 05 2008
Wyatt Clarke

Hey Barrett – I don’t have any specific experiences with business plan competitions at Purdue, but I do know they do sponsor several throughout the year. If you can keep your eye on Krannert and Burton Morgan’s calendars throughout the academic year, they will probably give you several opportunities to try it out. It might make you some good contacts within the entrepreneurial community too.

16 10 2008
One year of starting up « Another Startup

[…] three most popular posts have been on crafting an effective elevator pitch, designing a decent logo, and finding icons for Windows […]

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