The 4 Types of Pitches You Need to Have in Your Pocket

Pitch opportunities usually come with some warning, giving you a chance to prepare and practice. You’ve set up a meeting with a potential investor or client, or you’ve signed up to present at a demo day, and you know exactly what you’re going to say. But you never know when the opportunity to sell someone on your company could arise. It can happen at conferences, coffee shops, parties, and yes, in elevators. Labs mentor and pitch expert Donna Griffit has identified four different types of pitches you need to be able to perform on the spot.

The elevator pitch

When you need it: When you have 1 to 2 minutes with a potential investor, client ,or partner and you need to get them interested enough in your company to want to continue the conversation.

How to structure it and what to include: “Spend the first 15 to 20 seconds illustrating the problem you’re solving in a powerful way, then talk about the solution,” Griffit says. For that, you need a “simple solution statement: ‘We do X for Y by doing Z.’” It needs to be simple enough that anyone from any industry could follow. With your remaining time, tell them something exciting—a client you just signed, an investment you just secured, or an industry trend that makes your solution a good opportunity for them right now.

Word from the wise: Don’t dive straight into your product or tech. If you do that, you’re missing the opportunity to connect with your listener.

The handshake pitch

When you need it: When you’re at a conference, networking event, or party and you have 20 seconds to grab someone’s interest.

How to structure it and what to include: You want to hit the same points as your elevator pitch, only condensed. That means you’ve got one sentence to explain the problem, one to explain the solution, and one more to share something exciting, Griffit says. You can also try turning your problem into a question (‘have you ever experienced X problem?’) which lets you present your solution in a way that feels more personally impactful to the listener.

Word from the wise: Know when to let someone walk away. “If their response to your pitch is ‘sounds great’ or ‘good luck,’ Griffit says, “they’re not interested.”

The eye-blink pitch

When you need it: When you literally have a split-second to grab someone’s attention, like Jeff Bezos strolling past you on the street.

How to structure it and what to include: This is your one-liner statement of value. Create one sentence that would make someone turn around if they heard it—a staggering fact about the problem you’re solving or your solution, anything that would make them want to hear more from you, Griffit says.

Word from the wise: Prepare multiple versions of this pitch so you have options to pull out of your brain when the opportunity arises.

The 5-minute pitch

When you need it: When you’re presenting to an investor in a less time-constrained format or presenting at a demo day event.

How to structure it and what to include: There are four buckets of information you need to hit: the problem, the solution, the guts of your business (market size, unique value proposition, revenue plans, etc.) and where you see your company going and growing, Griffit says. Keep your statements crisp and focus on the aspects of your company that have a wow or interest factor.

Word from the wise: When you’re creating all of these pitches, start with the 5-minute pitch and whittle down from there. Having all of the information you could use at your disposal will make it easier and faster to craft your shorter pitches.


A few more expert tips:

  • Don’t be argumentative, especially if you’re pitching a potential investor. “Investors don’t want to work with argumentative people,” Griffit says. “They’re thinking ahead to board meetings and how those are going to go.” Keep a cool head and give yourself time to pause and breathe before responding to any less-than-glowing feedback or questions.
  • Don’t speak ill of your competitors in your pitch. Griffit says it makes the people you’re pitching to wonder what you’d say about them behind their backs if you were to work together.
  • If you’re pitching to an investor, be ready to take written notes on their feedback. It shows that you’re actively listening to them.
  • Leave a little mystery. Think of your pitch as a first date—you’re not going to lay all your cards on the table, Griffit says. So hold back enough to make the person you’re speaking to want to hear more.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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