Home » Archive » The quest for a 60-second pitch

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

One of my friends is a teacher. He’s told me many times that the best way to learn something is to explain it to someone else. Well I want to learn to do a 60-second pitch, so here goes.

Over the next seven days I intend to write (or liberally copy other people) on the following topics:

  • 1+7 Steps to pitching an idea
  • 13+ questions for pitchers
  • Put the pitch together
  • 60-second pitch: The 10 point outline
  • 60-second pitch: The first 10 seconds
  • 60-second pitch: The three biggest mistakes
  • Presenting the bigger small picture
  • The overview
  • Today: 1+7 steps to pitching an idea.

    This is a summary of Scott Berkum’s essay “How to Pitch an Idea”.

    So you’ve got a great idea, what are you up against when you want to make it happen? Start with the principles of physics and work from there.

    Any real change must first address the force of inertia, the resistance an object has to a change in its state of motion. Objects (and people) at rest tend to stay at rest and getting them moving requires an astonishing amount energy.

    Here’s Scott’s advice (and a bit of my own):

    Step 0: Create and refine the idea

    “The classic mistake of would be idea pitchers is to pitch the idea well before it’s ready. When most people find an interesting idea, they’re quickly seduced by their egos into doing silly and non productive things, like annoying the pants off of everyone they come into contact with by telling them how amazing their new idea is. The thrill of being clever is so strong that they forget the fact that there are 100 interesting ideas bouncing around for every single truly good idea. ”

    To move from plebeian to highbrow requires some work. Especially important is sorting through how and when the work is done. You need to define how this idea can move from the abstract to the tangible.

    Scott says to “Always remember that moving from an interesting but vague idea, to specific and actionable is the difficult part of creation and invention.”

    Step 1: What is the scope of the idea?

    “Big ideas require more change to take place on someone’s part, and all things being equal, this means the pitch must be more thorough (or your approach more bold & risky). The stakes are higher.”

    Step 2: Who has the power to green light the idea?

    “Make a list of the people that are potential recipients of your pitch. Base this list on two criteria: who has the power needed to implement the idea, and who you might have access to.”

    One thing that never grows old is the miracle of networks. Jump onto some networking app like LinkedIn to see how easy it can be to reach people you’d have previously thought of as untouchable. It’s amazing to realize how easy it can be to leverage your network and reach people with the power you need.

    Step 3: Start with their perspective

    “Put your pitch aside. How do they think about the world? What kinds of things are they probably interested in? What is their typical day like? How many unsolicited pitches do they receive a day? Consider how the person you’re trying to pitch views the world, and keep it in mind while developing your pitch.”

    Step 4: The structure of the pitch

    Always formulate 3 levels of depth to pitching your idea: 5 seconds, 60 seconds, 5 minutes.

    “The 5 second version is the most concise single sentence formulation of whatever your idea is. Refine your thinking until you can say something intelligent and interesting in a short sentence.”

    If you can’t get this done, you’re not trying hard enough. It’s easy to be lazy here, but not near as easy as it is to summarize in one word the response you’ll get otherwise: No.

    The 60 second and 5 minute versions are just extensions of the 5 second version. Add more detail and explain how you deliver on your 5 second pitch.

    Step 5: Test the pitch

    “Get out of your office / cubicle / apartment, and go find smart people you know to give you feedback. From your pitch tests, develop a list of questions you expect to be asked during the pitch, and be prepared to answer them.”

    This is another spot where laziness is a huge temptation. It’s easy to mull it over in your head or to just stop with asking the person closest to you. But what you really need is the feedback of many people including some that don’t have a clue about your business.

    Step 6: Deliver

    “The best delivery advice I can offer is to make sure you spend some time preparing for a positive response. What happens if they say ‘That’s an interesting idea. What do you want from me?’ Do you want money? Other resources? A change in the project plan? A feature added to the feature list? Know what the sequence of steps are after they agree you have a good idea and be ready to ask for them.”

    Step 7: What to do when the pitch fails

    “When things don’t go well [you need to] harvest as much value from the attempt as possible. Always leave failed pitches with an understanding of what went wrong. Which points didn’t they agree with? Which of your assumptions did they refute? In many cases, you might learn there are criteria for green lighting ideas in your organization that you didn’t know about.”

    I think this list is a great start. It’s an overview of all the pieces between brainwave and getting down to steel tacks. But it leaves unanswered the difficult question: How do I make the pitch I need to make?

    Comments are closed.