Practicing—and Perfecting—Your 60-Second Pitch

I recently joined my colleague Saba Karim, Director of Startup Pipeline at Techstars, for a one-hour event where founders did elevator pitches on Twitter Spaces hosted by Adam Soccolich (aka Twitter’s @TheBestOfAdam) and… wow!

We heard a variety of pitches from a diverse group of founders from around the world. Some came with experience from other startups. Some were first-time entrepreneurs. A few were currently in Techstars accelerators. A few others had received feedback from Saba in previous Spaces sessions and were coming back with more polished pitches. Some were stepping up to pitch in public for the first time.

As Saba, Adam and I weighed in with our comments a few consistent suggestions emerged about what to say and how to say it. Not all these suggestions will apply to every pitch you make. But, both now and as your pitch evolves, I invite you to use this checklist to choose the most relevant aspects of your story to include when you’re only given 60 seconds to sell to an investor.

What to say:

Start with the “why.”

What made you start this business? Was there a personal story or experience that helped bring home to you the problem you now wish to solve? 

Use differentiators to establish your credibility.

What is special or unique about the insight you have? Do you or the people on your team bring experience or expertise that sets your startup apart?

Validate your opportunity. 

Quantify the market you are addressing. If you have competitors, use their presence to highlight why the space is attracting interest. If you’ve already launched a product, use exact numbers about your own business (revenues, customers, growth rate, etc.). 

Communicate your vision.

What are you hoping to achieve if you succeed? When I invest, I’m thinking about the impact over 10-20 years. As I listen, I’m asking myself, “could this change the world?” (Confused about reconciling “vision” and “focus”? See this post.)

Make your ask.

What is it you need right now? If you’re in a fundraising round, give the details. If you’re looking for mentors or guidance, state the kind of advisers you need. If you need talent, state the specific areas where you need help.

How to say it:

Bring some energy.

Make sure your own passion comes through. Even if you’re just on audio, smile and be animated. If you’re not excited about your project, your investor won’t be either.

Keep listeners on track.

Make sure your pitch has the right kind of flow to keep someone listening. The goal isn’t to get a check at the end of 60 seconds—it’s to start a conversation, to make the investor ask follow-up questions.

Don’t go too fast.

Yes, be energetic, but don’t rush it. Don’t cram too much into 60 seconds. Give your listener the opportunity to absorb what you’re saying as you’re saying it.

Abide by the time limitation.

More than 60 seconds is a monologue, not a conversation. And if that’s the time you’ve been offered, don’t abuse it. Practice ahead of time and keep an eye on the clock. If you go on too long, that alone may turn an investor off, or at least create a poor first impression.

Start a conversation.

With a 60-second pitch, the goal is always the next meeting, not an instant check. If you’ve piqued the interest of an investor, he or she is going to want to hear more—or maybe point you in the direction of the next person to talk to.

Practice makes perfect.

Getting your pitch right is an ongoing process. So practice, refine, take on feedback. Ultimately, your pitch doesn’t just have to be good. It has to stand out from the other pitches the investor is hearing.

I’m looking forward to doing more sessions like this on Twitter and elsewhere in the year ahead. But if you’re ready to practice your pitch right now, check my calendar for some 15-minute “office hours” sessions in the days ahead.

Grab a spot on my calendar here.

file under: Startups