on pitching

Sri Lanka Summer 2014 Blog

Written by: Sarah Edris

July 5, 2014

Ah, the famous elevator pitch. Given one to two minutes, can you quickly capture someone's attention and win them over so that by the end they want to learn more, help you out, buy something, or spread the word to others?

One fun activity we've been doing in class to get participants more used to doing this is giving them some object to pitch to a specific customer. We've had them pitch a speaker set to the bread sellers that drive around in small trucks playing Für Elise (aka, choon paan), and dry erase markers to tuk tuk drivers (tough one!). These pitches often turn into more of a comedic skit though, with a back and forth between the two sides. One of my favorites was when Harshi pitched a USB to our resident king coconut seller, Yohan. She focused on his needs, and started by asking how many coconuts he will usually sell in a day. She then introduced her USB and described how it could hold hundreds of songs, which he could easily then put into his radio to play advertisement-free music. Why is this so great? She gave the convincing example of couples being drawn in by romantic music, and easily drinking numerous coconuts while blissfully talking to each other. She also gave further use cases of the USB and how it could draw in and keep customers around for more coconuts. In the end, she stated that the coconut seller could double his customers each day, with just this one tiny USB. She gave the price, and showed how it would pay for itself soon enough, especially with all those couples constantly drinking coconuts. By the end, Yohan -- and the class -- were pretty convinced.

At the Venture Engine pitching contest the other day, one of our own instructors, Tiffany, really exemplified how to give a true elevator pitch. Instructors and GSL participants were going down the elevator (from the 10th floor) after the event. We'd been talking about elevator pitches and having everyone practice their own pitches a lot lately, so one person joked that someone should try to do one. There was an investor from the event in the elevator with us as well, and he just chuckled, saying there wasn't much time left, as we'd already gone down a couple floors by then. The seconds ticked by as everyone just silently and nervously looked at each other, and it seemed like this opportunity was just going to be lost. With six floors left, Tiffany quickly jumped into her own enthusiastic pitch of the GSL program. She could only get a couple sentences in, but definitely impressed everyone in that elevator in that short amount of time. Determined to finish, she found the same investor later that night and continued her pitch, even having a conversation with him and receiving a business card. :)

These are just a couple of my favorite examples from the last week. But I think they really show the power of the elevator pitch. So keep practicing and make sure to have your own elevator pitch ready -- you never know when you'll need it.