Getting face time with an investor is no easy task, and getting on a reporter’s radar can be just as difficult. Whether it’s a fleeting moment between meetings or a brief run-in at an event, entrepreneurs should be prepared to take advantage of time that they get with funders and media to share their big idea.
That means taking time to really understand and perfect the elevator pitch. Catherine Clifford, a senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC, has spent the past 12 years turning the stories of entrepreneurs and small business owners into gripping narratives that connect with broader audiences.
In January, Comcast NBCUniversal and Venture for America partnered to support the next generation of entrepreneurs at a storytelling workshop led by Clifford who shared tips on crafting the perfect pitch. With the room full of Venture for America Philadelphia chapter fellows and alumni, Clifford shared insider knowledge and shed light on how a better understanding of narrative can be the difference between getting the valuation you want and not getting a meeting at all.
Here are five of the most crucial things entrepreneurs should keep in mind when constructing their perfect pitch.
1. Know the heart of your story
Brevity is a blessing. Make sure to be as concise as possible while still making salient facts clear, especially when talking to reporters who are overloaded with pitches and stories.
“If you’re talking to a member of the media, get right to the point,” said Clifford. Know your numbers and data. “Not numbers your mom told you or you found on the internet. You need specific numbers from verified sources that really help ground your story and give it some credibility.”
2. Be confident
There’s a time and a place for everything. When you land that elusive pitch meeting with a potential investor, don’t be too modest. Remember, you’re selling more than just an idea. You’re selling yourself.
“Tell why you’re the best at what you’re doing or the most passionate,” said Clifford. “That could mean giving some personal anecdotes and giving a little of your personal history, if that affects the story, is really valuable.”
3. Do your research
The perfect pitch is like a bespoke suit. One size doesn’t fit all. Rather, it’s tailor-made for every individual customer. You need to know who you’re talking to, and Clifford was adamant about this point with regard to the media.
“Figure out what that particular reporter is covering, what they have covered, and what publication they’re working for,” she said. “Tailor your pitch specifically for that reporter.”
4. Avoid the jargon
For those working in super technical or niche fields, it’s important to focus more on the impact of your technology on society and less on the technical details. Make what you do easy to understand. That means leaving the jargon at home.
5. Be vulnerable
People can feel authenticity. The only way to make a connection is to let your guard down and allow the passion for your life’s work shine through.
“Tell a little bit of your own story, but not too much. You don’t want to go on forever,” said Clifford. “But telling a little bit of your story and how it translates into what you’re doing now can be really compelling.”
Aside from its importance in pitching to media and investors, an entrepreneur’s narrative plays a vital role in building a successful business. We’re all storytellers, Clifford said. Her advice can help entrepreneurs better understand and communicate what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and why people should care. Watch Clifford’s presentation here for more tips on creating the perfect pitch.