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Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality
Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality

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3 Pitching your business

The elevator pitch is so called because it lasts no longer than 60 seconds, or as long as it might take you to explain your business idea to someone if you got into a lift with them! It is a good discipline to be able to explain quickly and concisely what your business is to busy people whom you may want to enrol to support you.

The ideal pitch will quickly inform them of what you do and what you are looking for from them. If you go back to the value proposition you prepared in Session 3, you may well have your elevator pitch ready to go. Some tech entrepreneurs borrow from other well-known brands, for example, ‘We are like a social enterprise version of Uber’ could work for a community transport scheme – as long as everyone understands the concept of Uber!

Activity 2 Listen and learn

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Listen to the following short extract from The Bottom Line (Radio 4 Business programme commissioned by The Open University). In it Evan Davis introduces two teenage entrepreneurs, Akshay Ruparelia and Henry Patterson, and effectively draws from them their short pitch. As you listen, think about whether you could improve upon their pitch. Listen to the questions that Evan asks them (especially Henry) to get the clarity he is looking for.

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Audio 1 The Bottom Line
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How do you think they did? It is important to remember that this was a live broadcast and that these were young (in one case very young) people who were answering the question ‘what is it that you do?’ Bearing that in mind, they did very well indeed.

The first answer from Akshay was much clearer (although Evan did clarify the point on £99). Henry, being much younger relied a little more on questions. If you are nervous you will get more polished with time, and by learning what others say. You probably don’t need to state your age as part of your pitch!

For most situations you will need a little more detail than the boilerplate and this is where you can refer back to the work you did on your business model canvas and other tools introduced earlier in the course. If you are in the position to create a presentation then you may wish to prepare it as a short, succinct slide deck, using images and bullet points rather than a lot of words. However, this is not always the most effective way of presenting and slides can be overused and so less likely to help you to stand out in people’s memories, which is one of the objectives.

The purpose of the pitch is to create a positive (first) impression, to inform, engage and be memorable. After all, if people cannot remember you or what you are seeking to do, they won’t have any way of engaging with you later or be able to refer you to anyone else.

One of the best ways to engage people is to demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm. Another is to use stories that help to bring the problem or need alive so that you can then demonstrate with energy how your business idea solves it. Stories are easier to relate to than technical details and if they tap into emotions and empathy, they are also more memorable.

You may well have to get over anxieties about public speaking or selling, but these are essential skills to learn. Prospective customers, investors and mentors are not only buying into the idea but also you, as without you the idea will not succeed. One good way to overcome fear and anxiety is to prepare thoroughly, know what you want to say and how you want to come across, and then to practise.

Next you will look at the different areas you may want to cover in your pitch.