Most founders can talk for hours about their startups, diving deep into unique products, innovative technologies, attractive business models, and well-crafted strategies. Despite this, meetings with potential investors do not always end successfully.
In contrast to the common approach to pitches, which presupposes a more or less interested audience and around 10 minutes of speech, there will be times when you need to deliver an unexpected and – most important – super quick presentation of your startup.
Obviously, you can never predict exactly whom you will meet or how even a one-minute conversation can change the life of your business. A stranger could end up being the investor who changes your entire operation. Needless to say, it is vital to make the most of such moments.
What do you do when you have only a minute to impress an investor? How can you condense all your ideas into a brief and powerful presentation that communicates your team’s strategy and all the important sections from your business plan or pitch deck? That’s where the elevator pitch comes into play.
What should an elevator pitch about yourself include? How can you prepare to grasp an investor’s attention right away? Let’s dive in together!
What is an elevator pitch and why does your startup need it?
What is an elevator pitch? As the name suggests, it’s a kind of presentation that could be delivered during an elevator ride. Indeed, some legends say that this notion originated back in the XX century, when screenwriters or journalists were attempting to quickly pitch their ideas to executives. Later, the term spread to other spheres, including venture capital. Now, such short pitches can be given wherever possible.
The good news is that you don’t need to have a magic elevator to find potential investors for your project. Whenever you have an opportunity to talk with one, you’ll have 30-60 seconds – the duration of an elevator ride – for pitching.
Why is it so important to prepare a super-brief pitch in advance? To take full advantage of any meeting, you must be able to quickly distill the essentials for business success, as well as your most impressive facts or numbers. It’s quite easy for your message to get lost here without proper preparation. Thus, you need to do some homework before approaching the investors with your pitch.
How do you write an elevator pitch?
Curating a 60-second elevator pitch for business purposes may seem like it would be much easier than crafting a 15-page presentation or business plan. However, it’s not as easy as it looks. You need to identify and extract the most compelling and impressive facts about your business and present them through an understandable, catchy, and short pitch that sparks the interest and response of your listener.
As a rule, it takes much more than just an interesting idea to grasp an investor’s attention. With hundreds of projects on their radar, investors are constantly getting better at quickly understanding whether your project is a perfect match or a no-go.
Thus, a proper elevator pitch requires solid preparation to prevent you from focusing on things that may seem extremely important but are actually useless for the investor at this point in time.
Developing your elevator pitch means striking a balance between saving time and including all the important information. What should you keep in mind? First, it would help to look at a sample elevator pitch to see how they work; it never hurts to absorb as many samples as possible. Elevator pitch ideas can often be inspired by past pitches. In addition, you can use this list of Waveup’s tips & tricks to make your next elevator pitch a success:
Despite the pitch being extremely short, it still must be properly structured; otherwise, the investor can get lost during your speech.
Make sure to introduce yourself at the beginning. Try to make your introduction impressive, but don’t go too far, as you need to leave enough time for the most important information.
At the end of your brief presentation, don’t forget to outline why you are searching for an investor now (e.g., you need funding, mentorship, support, etc.).
Don’t overlook the call to action. Outline what the next steps will be if the investor is interested. Make it easy to connect with you after the pitch – leave your business card or mention the best way for them to find you.
You can always suggest sending some additional materials for review. However, remember to be polite and respectful. Ask if the person has time at all, be grateful for the time investor gives to you, and don’t be too pushy.
Waveup template for preparing an elevator pitch
Keep in mind that you need to focus on the most important and impressive things about your project. Use this time to convince the investors that what you’re pitching is definitely worth their interest.
- Prove that the market really needs your solution: If you can explain how you can solve a huge existing problem or help fulfill the large unmet demand, this implies a compelling market opportunity for the investor.
- Describe your value proposition: Show the most impressive benefits your solution brings to customers (e.g., it’s 2x faster/cheaper, simplifies the customer journey, makes something more accessible, etc.)
- Demonstrate that you can already boast solid traction: Convince them the market is validated, the MVP is ready, the growth is strong, early market feedback is overwhelmingly positive, etc.
If it appears that the investor has extra time and is interested in hearing more, you can always go further and dive deeper into your business model and factors such as competitive advantages, market positioning, and market size, among others.
It is highly probable that you won’t have the opportunity to show slides, tables, or pictures supplementing your pitch. The time is limited, and investors would prefer not to try to see something on your phone while they are in a hurry. Instead, make sure your speech is clear and meaningful without any supporting materials. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to be ready to send or show some files if the investor asks for them.
Provide additional context to ensure your pitch fully makes its point. Many successful examples do not just mention some numbers; they also compare them to the benchmarks (e.g., to show that the startup is already overperforming in the way some famous solutions had at the same development stage).
This will be the first and maybe only opportunity for the investor to get to know you and your project, so make sure your pitch is one to be remembered. Add some impressive and memorable facts or numbers to create a “wow” effect to catch their attention.
You will never know exactly how much time you have, but you can always experiment and prepare different options: longer and shorter pitches tailored to different occasions.
Your future listener may not know you, but if you are trying to meet a particular person, it’s always a good idea to prepare. Try searching for some information from open sources or ask someone who has had a chance to communicate or cooperate with the investor you have in mind. This could reveal the investor’s preferences in terms of industries/startup development stages and the key factors he or she values most.
Top mistakes in elevator pitches and how to avoid them
Delivering an elevator pitch is quite a big responsibility. A lot is at stake. On top of that, it’s extremely easy to fail and much more difficult to correct any mistakes in such a short timeframe.
Analyzing mistakes made by others is always a great solution to make sure you avoid the same errors in the future. Let’s look at the most common pitfalls founders face when giving elevator pitches and discuss how you can avoid them.
Content & Structure
- Too much technical language / jargon. Your project may have fascinating technology, but there is no need to go too far into detail or use complicated terms during the elevator pitch. First, it will distract the investor from other important aspects; your solution is about more than just technology. Second, the investor simply may not understand what you are talking about.
- Too much unnecessary info. Usually, founders try to cram every bit of existing information about their startup to explain the elevator pitch meaning. After all, if you are working on your new venture 24/7, everything seems important. However, this is not the case for your potential investor. The main question for them is whether investing time and money into your solution will allow them to make significant profits. Thus, you need to concentrate on the facts that demonstrate why it will do so. Remember the rule: focus on what the investor wants to hear, not what you want to say.
- Unstructured / too vague pitch. Apart from the pitch content itself, you always need to think about how it can be presented. If you want to make sure the whole message is digestible and understandable, a well-planned structure matters. Avoid trying to say everything at once; instead, divide your speech into logical parts, think about the order, and be consistent. The quality of your storytelling plays a significant role, even in a one-minute pitch.
- The same content & structure for all pitches. Sometimes, it is worth experimenting with your pitch and preparing various versions for different people and occasions. You will then be able to adjust your speech to work best in any particular situation. What if the investor has more time to listen to you and seems interested in learning more about your projects? Finding yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to say next would be a disaster. However, you can always avoid this by preparing beforehand.
- Lack of preparation. Sometimes, founders get too confident, thinking that there is no need to spend much time preparing a speech; perhaps they are convinced that they can just come up with something if needed. It’s true that you will certainly come up with something, but the question is, would such a presentation be powerful and compelling? Most likely, it won’t. If your team really wants to capture and keep the investor’s attention, don’t be lazy: prepare and practice. Try writing out exactly what you want to say and delivering your speech to different people, asking if it’s understandable and impressive to them.
- An imbalance between emotions and the story you want to deliver. It’s important for investors to see that you personally believe in your business idea and are emotionally engaged. However, it’s also essential to maintain a balance and avoid letting the emotional side of your pitch take over. While you do not want to seem indifferent, you must also show that there is much more in your belief than just emotions and personal desires. Thus, you always need to incorporate some rationales that can convince the investor that the market needs such a business now.
- Impolite behavior. The importance of being polite may sound obvious, but it’s quite easy to overlook this aspect when you are so eager to speak with investors. Remember that no one likes people who are too insistent or aggressive. Don’t forget to ask whether an investor has time and is able to listen to you at all, and make sure to thank them if you had an opportunity to speak.
- No time for feedback or response. Have you used your time as efficiently as possible and managed to communicate everything you planned? Great job! The next question is whether you left some time for the investor to respond. If not, you may lose an opportunity to get some helpful insights or advice, as well as answer any additional questions they may have. Make sure you leave some space for the investor next time you deliver an elevator pitch.
The elevator pitch can be highly instrumental when networking or communicating with potential investors. It’s a great tool to quickly present the strongest sides of your business.
As you can see, despite the short duration, a good elevator pitch requires some time and effort to prepare. That said, once you get an opportunity to speak to a potential investor, everything you’ve put into the pitch will definitely pay off.
Our favorite part of this job is seeing how amazing ideas of our clients turn into successful business stories. 550+ projects have already tried Waveup’s magic and received best-in-class investor materials. Yours can be the next. Just drop us a message.