On the 3rd of May I attended the fourth event of the Women @ EIT at the EIT CLC in Kista. When I read the description of the event on facebook I thought that the event would consist of lecture on how to perfect our pitching skills, so I was really surprised when I found out that the “training session” made up 90% of the workshop. The guest speaker was Anjali Virmani Paul, business coach at KTH Innovation, who explained to us how most of the times a pitch is not something staged, since most people find team members, customers and investors in weird places, like toilets or elevators, thus elevator pitches. It’s not hard to see how in an elevator you cannot rely on visual aids, like slides, and you cannot practice an elevator pitch, since it’s not a performance. In an elevator pitch what matter is your ability to make the person you are talking to what your idea is, following this useful points:
- The hook: you have to grab the attention of the person you are pitching your idea to.
- Who are the customers and what are their pains.
- Why you. What makes you different from the competition.
- What you need, wether you need an investment or team members .
- The three next steps you will take to take your startup further.
Now that we knew what to talk about, another important step was to understand that how we talk about our idea is equally important. Considering that a potential investor has to listen to hundreds of pitches every day is hard to stand out, moreover, when you start pitching your idea to someone in an elevator, you don’t really know wether that person is a potential investor, a potential customer, a potential partner or a potential team member. But how can we know when a pitch is effective?
The four criteria we were presented to measure the effectiveness of the pitch were:
- Words: jargon/technicalities vs stories/data.
- Tone: variation in pitch, pace, volume.
- Body language: gestures, eye contact, posture.
- Compelling: uniqueness, attention.
After this introduction we started the training session. Every attendant had 2 minutes to think about the idea he or she wanted to pitch, and to write down some guidelines following the points above. When the 2 minutes expired, we started the pitching session. Each person had 60 seconds to pitch his or her idea, after the pitch Anjali gave some feedback on the overall performance, making clear where we did wrong and what we could have done different to improve the effectiveness. Each person in the audience gave feedbacks as well, writing them on a post it. This feedbacks weren’t on the idea itself, rather on the pitching technique, and wether it was effective or not. The audience was also divided in groups, which changed after every pitch. This group had to give different kind of feedback (positive, negative, from a customer prospective and from an investor prospective).
Now, let’s talk about my pitch. Since the training session was not about getting feedback on the idea itself, I decided to pitch the app I’m building, which involves medical and recreational cannabis, so I knew beforehand it would have been fun to see the reaction. I also was, and still am, aware that I et nervous when I speak in public, especially when I get to the end and I don’t know how to wrap the pitch up.
Needless to say, Anjali agreed that what I pitched was risky, and she is against drugs, period. She explained how a pitch like this is risky in a way that it really depends who you are speaking to, it can be a strong yes or a hard no. In this case it was, for her, a hard no, and she suggested that I could have tried a different approach, trying to separate my target customer from the person i’m talking to, since it’s hard for a person against drugs to try and understand what the pain of a person which uses cannabis are, and this can put him at unease. But to my surprise the feedback I got weren’t bad at all, beside the one that noticed I was getting nervous toward the end, which I expected.
After the pitching session, we were asked to tell which of the pitch we remembered, and to write the name, the idea and some quotes of that pitch on a post it and give it to the person who pitched the idea. This was more difficult than expected, as a proof that pitching is really something that has to be perfected if you want to be remembered. Surprisingly (or not), no one remembered mine.