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The Pitch

April 3, 2008

First, my apologies for the long time between posts. The reality is that a month ago, a family emergency came up and all of my free time away from running the day-to-day activities of has gone to supporting my family on the other coast. I bring it up here because I think “flexibility” in one’s schedule is one of the great things about being your own boss. I might always be working but I can do it when and where I need to. This allows for a different type of “work/life balance” that is very powerful when used appropriately. Let’s save that topic for another post in the future. The subject this time is The Pitch.

The Pitch
It’s the most essential part of your communication arsenal. Without it, you are dead in the water; with it, you are alive and well. Case in point: the previous two sentences have either grabbed you or not. You will either read the rest of this post or skip over to the next thing on your mind.

Do not underestimate the power of the pitch and do not under prepare. You will refine and hone the pitch over and over again and each time you will not have prepared enough. I have been “pitching” my businesses for the better part of the last decade. I have worked with great PR and marketing folks refining the pitch and still there are times when I just come off flat. So you have to practice, practice, practice. And, if you’re like me, you don’t need anyone to tell you once you have pitched whether it’s good or not. You just know.

Here are some things to keep in mind when developing your pitch: clarity and conciseness, imagery, and repeatability.
1) Clarity and conciseness. This is the proverbial elevator pitch. I like to think of it as 30 seconds long. It needs to be brief and to the point. I changed the name of my current company because I thought of a tagline that went with the name that accomplished this in four words. Send. Receive. Pay. Don’t try to be clever and don’t try to use big words. If you write it out and the sentence is a run-on or is more than 20 words, it is too long.
2) Imagery. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. So if you don’t have time to say a thousand words, create an image that is way more powerful. BTW, it is also quite memorable. To illustrate a scene for services, I conjure up the images of paper everywhere, lost behind desks and even the way things were done when my folks were starting their first business (punch cards). cleans up that mess. Images you conjure up for your business will work and will be remembered.
3) Repeatability. If you don’t say the same thing every time you are at your kids’ soccer game or sitting next to someone on the airplane, then how will your target market remember it? There is a fun game, called “Telephone,” that we used to play as kids. You line up a group of kids and whisper in one ear and then have that repeated to each kid along the chain. Invariably, what you get at the end of the chain is very different than when it started. Don’t forget this when you are developing your pitch. Your message will get repeated many more times than you know and you always want the last person to hear it to be as if you were talking to them.

Now that you have it, practice! Not once or twice, but hundreds of times. When we launched at Demo last fall, I practiced my six-minute pitch more than 100 times in the final three weeks before the show. We did win a Demogod award but I still wished I had practiced more. Once thing to keep in mind is your environment when you pitch. When you are raising money from VC’s it is different than Angel Investors and it is different than being on stage. Be prepared for interruptions in the form of questions, suggestions or bright lights/flashes going off, if on stage. The more you practice by yourself with friends that play the role, or actual advisors, the better you will be.

So good luck on developing that pitch, it is an art and it is never done.

P.S.: Check out the links on the right to read some excellent articles on The Pitch.

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