Guest Post: The One Minute Pitch, Chet Latin

As part of our commitment to bringing you information and opinions about entrepreneurship and technology, our June Guest Post features Chet Latin, TechStart Program Coordinator and CTech Advisor.  Today, Chet shares with us his thoughts on pitching, mined from his experience with the local startup community.

The One Minute Pitch

On May 18, 2012, the first TechStart program concluded with 7 startup companies presenting Pitches to over 50 Connecticut Innovations, Angel and Early Stage Venture Investors or Investment Managers.  This was following eleven weeks of intense efforts in defining their business models, reaching out to potential customers, developing their technology and honing their investor pitches.  The TechStart Teams were given seven minutes to make their pitches.

While seven minutes does not seem like a lot of time, often there are situations where a pitch has to be limited to one minute.  Viewing the glass as half full, you may have a full sixty-second opportunity to introduce your startup company’s underlying concept and interest others in it.  Many of the lessons learned at the TechStart Program are applicable to the one minute pitch.  I have taken the liberty of using one of the TechStart Teams, Applivate,LLC’s product ShugaTrak to illustrate a one minute pitch.

TechStart will begin accepting applications after June 15 for its second program to begin in September.  More information will be available on the Connecticut Innovations website.

Purpose:

The purpose of a one minute pitch is not to get investors, team members, business partners or referrals; although, it could lead to any or all of these.  There is only one purpose of the one minute pitch and that is to stimulate interest for people to want to talk to you further.

To accomplish this you must get the audience to accept that there may be a significant problem or opportunity for which you may have a workable solution that will serve as the basis for a viable, profitable business.  Furthermore, you have to sell yourself to instill a level of confidence that you are worth a follow-up discussion.  This latter point is usually done through projecting a sense of knowledge and passion about the subject.

Engage the Audience:

Start by creating a connection with the audience related to the problem you are trying to solve.  Often this is done by asking a question to involve the audience. Other times you might tell a personal story that others can relate to in order to make a connection.   The point is to get the audience to really listen and pay attention to what you are saying.  You want them to connect with you on a personal level and be able to relate to what you are talking about.

Do you have or know someone who has diabetes?

Describe the Problem:

As concisely as possible, describe the problem you will be trying to solve.  If possible describe the problem in a manner in the same personal terms to which the audience can relate? The problem or opportunity should indicate the underlying cause of the problem and then the consequence

Imagine a child with diabetes.   How do you motivate that child to test as needed? You or your child could get really sick if blood sugar levels aren’t properly maintained. 

Indicate the Magnitude of the Problem:

Put the problem in context by describing how big it is.   A problem could be big because of calamitous consequences or because of frequency or a combination of both.  You want to indicate how widespread the problem is.

Did you know that there are over 200,000 juvenile diabetics in the US alone?  There are over 50 million adult diabetics World-Wide.

Describe Your Solution:

Describe the way your solution works.  How does it solve or mitigate the problem and what other benefits it might generate?  Don’t get into technical details but rather provide a general description. You want to indicate what sounds like it may be a workable solution but encourage the audience to want to learn more,

  • Our ShugaTrak phone app can provide notification to both the individual and a care giver if a sugar test is missed or the results are at a dangerous level. Furthermore, ShugaTrak is designed to provide motivational rewards for maintaining testing compliance.

 Explain Your Value Proposition:

How are you going to make money? This is really the central point of your pitch; the essence of your business.  How are you going to add value and get compensated for it to build a successful business?

 For a modest monthly charge, we are going to provide a telephone app based system for people and their care givers to better monitor diabetic blood sugar; thereby helping to keep them healthy.

In the Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki [highly recommended], the author discusses new businesses in the context of making meaning which can usually be described in a few words.  In Shuga-Trak’s case their meaning is to Help Manage Diabetes.

What Are You Looking For?:

Bear in mind that the whole purpose of the Pitch is to get people to talk to you. You should provide sufficient information so people know what you are looking for to trigger interest and attract the right people but not so much as to put them off. You would not discuss in the Pitch, company valuation, form of investment or proposed compensation, if any, for a team member. These should all be reserved for more personal discussions.

We are seeking to raise $400,000 to support marketing our product and for further technical development.  Please see me after the meeting if you want further information.

The shorter the time permitted for a pitch, the more important it is to use the time to its maximum advantage.

This means really honing in on the message that you want to deliver to get people interested in talking to you further.

Below is Applivate Founder, John Fitzpatrick giving a pitch for ShugaTrak: 

Tips:

  • Effective entrepreneurial leaders project charisma and passion that attract both people and money.  For some people this comes naturally, others have to work at it but can improve their ability.  The tips below are not directed at suggesting people be anything other than genuine, but rather to help them establish connections with their audience and be more effective communicators.
  • Communication is  non-verbal as well as verbal.  Many believe the non-verbal aspect is both more important and more effective in communication than content.  Facial movements, body language, nervous habits, posture, poise, all convey information to the audience which can be either positive or negative.
  • Public Speaking is one of the most wide-spread fears.  People have suggested that imagining the audience naked can counteract this fear.  I’ve never been successful with this approach.  However, I have found that positive visualization can be very helpful.  You should assume that people really want to hear what you have to say.  The hardest part is usually getting started.  This is where practice really comes into play.  The more comfortable you are with your opening remarks the easier it is to get started.
  • Always prepare an outline of the key points you want to make and the order you want to make them.  The shorter the time frame the more important this is.  Some people can do this in their heads while others have to write them down to prepare.  Usually, it is better to present a topic that you presumably know well without notes.  Use notes, if necessary to remember key points, but use them as sparingly as you can.
  • Smile at the beginning and periodically.  This helps you connect with the audience.
  • Show your passion.  Usually you are talking about something you really know and believe in.  Passion is infectious.  If you feel and show your passion, the audience will know and react positively to it,
  • Work at maintaining eye-contact with various members of the audience, make them feel that you are talking to them directly.  If you find it difficult to maintain eye contact, look at people’s forehead and they will think you are maintaining eye contact.
  • Where possible, visual aids such as slides, diagrams, exhibits all can enhance a presentation but care must be taken that they do not distract attention from you. For a one minute pitch, at most 1 or 2 images can be used, if any at all.
  • Using hand gestures can be very effective.  If you are not used to doing this it can feel awkward.  Practice privately with friends and exaggerate the motions.  This will help you get used to them.
  • Tell a story as opposed to giving a speech.  Many people rush through a memorized speech to get to the end. Such a speech goes too fast and may not be understood.  It is much more effective to tell a story as if you were talking to a friend. This is a very effective way to overcome nervousness.
  • Modulate your voice in both pitch and volume.  A monotone presentation is very boring and does not maintain an audience’s attention.
  • When you are making a particularly important point, pause.  Give the audience an opportunity to digest the point you made.  Many people have a tendency to stammer with um’s and uh’s.  Pausing and going more slowly helps counteract this.
  • Try to avoid using technical jargon and use plain English.  No one will be offended if you explain things so everyone can understand but if you lose people the communication has failed.
  • Practice! Practice! Practice!

(Derived from TechStart Program with ShugaTrak from Applivate, LLC)


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  1. LaunchHaven Meets DEMO | Pitch Criteria | Whiteboard - August 3, 2012

    […] to get started?  Check out this post, written by local startup guru, Chet Latin.  You’ll learn what elements make for a great […]

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