How do I pitch my ideas?

Gregg Fairbrothers:  Persuasive communication is one of the most important skills in the startup world, and often the least developed. Pitching is an art in itself, but fortunately it’s one anyone can learn with a little practice.

  1. “Pitching” in this question really means to describe, explain, persuade, sell. If you pitch successfully, you are achieving all these things.
  2. Pitching comes in all stages. In a way, you’re pitching your idea when you do your first market validation with potential customers (though you want to avoid crossing the line between “explaining” and hard selling). You’ll pitch to future customers, potential team members, advisors, investors, later again to customers. All these contexts call for different kinds of “pitches.” Eventually you’re selling the whole business idea as an investment, partnership opportunity, or sales opportunity. These are all contexts that call for different kinds of pitching.
  3. You need a summary document. From the beginning, people will ask you for one. The best summaries look like one- or two-page brochures and cover all the key points in your idea and business. For examples, see the Resources section in this website.
  4. The “elevator pitch” is the verbal version of your summary. Know it to where you can recite it conversationally and succinctly.
  5. The goal in these first encounters is always the same: to get the response, “I’d like to know more.” Pitches and summaries are valuable distillations. Don’t dilute them!
  6. Often you will need a presentation, usually in Powerpoint, though the new-new in some quarters is the “white board” presentation from memory, no slides. Many people ask for a written business plan, though few read it (they will skim it, though). Think of all these as pitching tools.
  7. In any event, the goal in all cases is to persuade people and get their buy-in. There’s lots of psychology you can bring to bear on that, more than fits here. Chapters 7 and 17 of From Idea to Success deal with this in detail.
  8. The fastest way to learn good communication and salesmanship?  Watch accomplished entrepreneurs at work and imitate them.
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