I spend a lot of coaching time with early stage entrepreneurs who are pitching their companies for award money at assorted “Pitch-Fests”. It’s an exciting time, as their ideas are still fresh, evolving, and the passion for their companies is unbridled. And you would think that this passion would result in them being able to tell an audience, any audience, what their company offers and why it’s special and prize-worthy.

But often, they can’t. When I start my coaching sessions I ask them to talk about their company as if they met me at a networking function or industry event. Every time it is the same response. The company name, what we do, where we’re located, number and roles of employees, etc. Blah, blah, blah.

It’s not that their information is wrong, it’s just so, biographical. They should aim for compelling.

In pitch competitions and investor pitches, simple and compelling win the day. Yes, of course you need to provide financial detail, product specifics and strategic rationale; but tell a story and get me interested. I use the following simple 3 step outline for many of these 3-10 minute pitches. Basically, break it down into thirds:

First 1/3: State the problem your solving (audience needs to understand and if possible, relate to the problem)

Second 1/3: “Enter The Hero” – Who are you and why are you special?

Third 1/3: Benefits, Summary, Close (What’s the close? That’s easy, what’s the answer to “Why am I giving this presentation? The answer to that question is your close)

So a quick 3 minute pitch is 1 minute for each step. A 10 minute pitch is about 3.5 minutes per step. You get the idea. Doesn’t have to be exactly these limits, but this format generally helps the story get told with a natural crescendo of interest. Here’s the process in visual form. ( The white dotted line is the low/moderate audience interest that comes from a basic biographical run through. The goal is the orange line at top – bringing the interest level up to high, by the end of the pitch).

It’s always fascinating to watch entrepreneurs transform from scattered, biographical recitations, into story tellers, simply by inserting their content into this easy format. Give it a try next time someone hits you up with “So what is it you do?”.

Love to discuss this more, so feel free to join in with comments.