Your Pitch Stinks! How to Craft One They Won't Forget

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Image Credit: T. Maxwell Wagner for SparkLabKC

In last week's post, I discussed the "quick pitch," or "elevator pitch," and the limited amount of time you have to make a great first impression as ambassador of your personal brand or new product idea. A solid elevator pitch is vital. It's the key that opens the door to a longer, more in-depth conversation with a potential customer, partner, or investor. Once that door is open, the real work begins.

In order to take that initial conversation to the next level and land a new client or investor, you need a great pitch. Whether you're standing in front of a huge group of investors at SparkLabKCs' Demo Day or in a small conference room with a new contact or two -- it's showtime. Your extended pitch is your opportunity to capitalize on the interest you piqued in your 30-second elevator pitch, make a compelling case for your product or service, and close the deal.

A Pitch They Won't Forget

So how do you craft a pitch that represents you and your idea to your best advantage? As part of SparkLabKC, I've watched the development of numerous Demo Day pitches. Here are a few of the best ways I've seen to create a pitch that is compelling, credible, and effective.

Tell A Story

Everybody loves a good story, and a well-crafted tale engages your audience and puts your product or service into a human context. Instead of simply describing the features and benefits of your product, tell a story that highlites its human impact. Create a character that your audience can identify with, and show them how your product improves that characters life, and by extension, theirs.

This theory was proven just a few weeks ago at TechCrunch Disrupt 2014 in San Francisco. In her pitch for the product Alfred Club, co-founder Marcela Sapone told a story about a busy guy named Dan:

"Dan could have scheduled a Homejoy cleaning or booked Washio to get his laundry. He could have even called Instacart to go grab him milk, but all of that takes time and coordination and the mental energy—Dan doesn't want to give it. So instead Alfred anticipates that Dan will need to press that on demand button and works and acts in the background..."

Dan is a busy guy who has a lot to get done. Who doesn't relate to that? The audience, and more importantly the judges, responded favorably to the story Marcela told. Alfred Club walked away with the Disrupt Cup and the $50,000 prize.

Define A Problem & Provide the Solution

In addition to (or as part of) telling a relatable story that engages your audience, the clearest way to sell your idea is to clearly define a problem that real people have, and that they will pay to have solved for them. In the case of the Alfred Club, the problem is simple: People are busy and don't want to expend the "mental energy" to coordinate all the little chores and errands that need to be done. Sound like a problem you've experienced? I bet so.

Defining a clear, relatable problem is the first step towards sealing the deal. The second? Now that you've defined a problem that real people are facing, you're in the perfect place to position yourself as the solution! If your problem is compelling enough, your audience will be eager to hear the innovative way you are solving it. If it's a problem they are facing themselves, you've got a new customer. If it's a problem that people are willing to pay you to solve for them, you've got a new investor.

Sell Your Team

Product is important, but the people behind it are just as relevant to your pitch. In fact, it's a commonly repeated mantra in the SparkLabKC offices that "Investors don't invest in ideas, they invest in people." Even the best idea can be toxic in the hands of the wrong people, so once you've hooked your audience with a problem and a solution, it's time to build credibility and trust in the people behind the product.

But, don't make the mistake of listing items off your resume. That gets boring really quickly. Tailor your personal information. Include the relevant and exciting pieces of your personal history, not all of it. If you're part of a team, make sure to highlight everyone's worth and your value as a collective.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Above all, be true to yourself and your idea. Authenticity is appealing, and your passion for your idea is the most dynamic and effective tool you have. Use the ideas above to craft a compelling pitch, and make the most of the opportunity to make a real connection with your audience, whether it's one person or a full auditorium.

You got your foot in the door with your elevator pitch, now make it count and close the deal.