So you’ve begun the important step of spreading the word about your business, and it’s time to start networking – one of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur. But are you confident enough and do you know enough about your business to be able to make an ‘elevator pitch’?

So you’ve begun the important step of spreading the word about your business, and it’s time to start networking – one of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur. But are you confident enough and do you know enough about your business to be able to make an ‘elevator pitch’?

An elevator pitch is a short, punchy presentation that allows you to pique the interest of those you’re addressing. It’s not meant to tell them all about your business – its function is only to entice and to solicit further interest. Think of a ride in an elevator or lift. It’s unlikely to last more than a minute. Your elevator pitch should last the same time.

Practice talking about yourself and your potential for 60 seconds. Make sure that your pitch is scripted properly – don’t just make it up as you go along. Then revise, revise, revise. Test it on colleagues, friends, or mentors, to ensure it’s both engaging and clear.

Pitch yourself, not your ideas

It might sound odd but, in an elevator pitch, your ideas don’t matter much. You need to be telling the person about yourself and what you’re capable of. Tell them what you’ve accomplished, not what you might accomplish.

In saying that, it's too easy to get so caught up in discussing who you are that you neglect to mention what you need. For example, what amount of financing are you seeking? What drives you will be of interest to potential investors.

Best foot forward

Most people wouldn’t want to do business with someone they don't like. Be friendly and smile. Give the impression that you are someone who’s easy to work with and who’s fun to be around. Be confident but don’t let your enthusiasm take over the pitch.

Have a hook

The objective of the first 10 or 15 seconds is to make your audience want to listen to the next 45 or 50 seconds more intently than they would have otherwise. This is often done with a powerful opening statement, eg, "By 2055, the world population will number nine billion. With the right level of investment, my company has the means to feed 25 percent of them."

It’s believed that that the attention span of the average adult is eight seconds, so ensure you give just enough information - the right information - so that after only hearing a sentence or two, someone knows what you do and what you need. While you need to appear authoritative, don’t fill your elevator pitch with complicated statistics or jargon.

Explain the benefit of listening to you

Make sure one of the first things you impart is how the investor can benefit from listening to you. What’s in it for them? In a short, concise summary, explain how you can help them.
While your pitch should be prepared beforehand, it’s important that you don’t apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach. You should strategise in advance. Find out who you’re going to be pitching to and put your speech together accordingly.

Show your market intelligence

If your pitch displays no awareness of current market trends and competition, it’s unlikely that any investor is going to give you the time of day. Make sure you’re confident about yourself, your proposal, and its potential to make a healthy return to the investor.

You have one minute in which to sell yourself as a promising investment. Investors are unlikely to have gotten where they are by being gullible, so stick to hard, empirical facts and stay clear of hyperbole.

Listen

When seeking to create business relationships, remember it can be just as important to listen as it is to talk. Don’t get so swept up in your pitch that you ignore the investor’s question and answer the one you think they’ve asked

If this all sounds daunting and you feel that you’re not particularly confident with public speaking or writing speeches, there are tools to help you, such as the Harvard Elevator Pitch Builder.