An “elevator pitch” is a concise, well-practiced description of your startup and your plan, delivered with conviction and enthusiasm, that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. Everybody knows about these, but few people seem to deliver a good one.

A good elevator pitch is not just for an elevator discussion. Use it in every networking situation and business conference introduction.

The elevator pitch should be the first few paragraphs of your business plan, your executive summary, your investor presentation, and the first page of your web site. A different message everywhere is no message.

An elevator pitch should always contain the following key elements:

  • Problem-solution “hook” – Open your pitch by getting the investor’s attention with a hook. This is a statement or question that piques their interest to want to hear more. Good hooks succinctly define a problem or need, and suggest the solution.
  • About 150-225 words – Your pitch should be about 30 seconds (average elevator ride). Don’t think that you can just talk fast to cram 500 words into that time. It won’t work.
  • Obvious passion – Investors expect energy, conviction, and commitment from entrepreneurs. How do you expect them to get excited, if your startup sounds like a dull subject to you?
  • A request – At the end of your pitch, you must ask for something. Do you want their business card, to schedule a full presentation, to ask for a referral?

Here are a few thoughts to help you get started:

1. What is your product or service?

Briefly describe what it is you sell. Focus on benefits rather than features.

2. Who is your market?

Briefly discuss who you are selling the product or service to. What industry is it? How large of a market do they represent?

3. What is your revenue model?

More simply, how do you expect to make money?

4. Who is behind the company?

“Bet on the jockey, not the horse” is a familiar saying among investors. Tell them the high points about you and your team’s background and achievements.

5. Who is your competition?

Don’t have any? Think again. Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition is a positive – they are proof your business model and/or concept work.

6. What is your competitive advantage?

You need to effectively communicate how your company is different and why you have an advantage over the competition. This could be a patent, key partners, domain expertise, or a better distribution channel.

Most importantly, avoid the most common mistake of turning this into a sales pitch for your product or service. The investor is “buying” the business, not the product. Tell him why and how you will run a winning business.

Consistency and redundancy are the keys to communicating any message. Another key to effective communication is practice, practice, practice early. Remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression.

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