How to pitch your business idea (or anything) in 60 seconds

Imagine you have exactly 60 seconds to pitch your business idea to a crowd of would-be investors, partners and team mates – people who hold the power to turn your idea into a reality.

Welcome to Startup Weekend, an event that takes place around the globe (1,200 events in 120 different countries).

I had the honour of mentoring at Startup Weekend, York Region on the last weekend of January. It started on Friday evening with more than 30 pitches from entrepreneurial students jam packed into a single Friday evening. From those, the top 10 pitches were chosen to go on to the development stage throughout the weekend.

So how on earth do you give an effective pitch in 60 seconds or less? I’ll start by saying that it’s not about speaking as fast as you can, stuffing in as much info as possible until the bell goes off. In fact, that’s pretty much the least effective pitch you could give. Instead, I strongly urge you to try the following approach.

Introduce yourself – give specifics. This is where you tell people who you are and why you’re an authority. In other words, why the heck should people listen to you?

Define the problem and explain why your audience should care. This is where you grab an audience’s attention. If you can’t convince them that there is, in fact, a problem they should care about*, they will start thinking about how much laundry is waiting for them at home, or they’ll begin wishing they had sat in the back row so they could play Candy Crush. Also, and this is really important, if there is no clear problem that you can solve, then there’s no need for you to be in business.

Explain your solution. How is your product/service going to create a solution? You don’t need to get wrapped up in how your product works. You just need to convince the audience that it will/does.

Make your ask. This is when you tell the audience what you need from them. If you don’t end with a call to action, they won’t know what to give you. Makes sense, right?

Say thanks. This one should be obvious but sometimes in the heat of the moment, when your body is a jumble of nerves and your brain’s trying to fend off fight or flight mode, you forget to say something as simple as, “Thanks for listening, I look forward to working with you soon.”

BOOM. There it is: a perfect pitch, wrapped up in 60-seconds. But before you leap off the page to do a Google search for other articles I’ve written, I want to bring up one more thing.

Clear, Credible, and CompellingThe 3 Cs.

Anything you write and/or present must pass the 3 Cs test. It must be clear, credible and compelling. At CFIB we compile and deliver research reports, press releases, op-eds, articles, speeches, marketing material, instructional webinars, videos and hand outs, etc., etc., etc.. And before anything leaves our hands, it must pass the 3 Cs test.

*Yes, profit potential, while not the only motivation, is a perfectly valid reason for them to care.