Won in 60 Seconds

Whatever business you happen to be in, it’s always good to have a one-minute pitch up your sleeve — after all, you never know who you’re going to bump into in the elevator. Selling yourself in 60 seconds is no easy task, but here’s what I learned when I won the FinTech One-Minute Pitch competition in Singapore in front of an audience of industry movers and shakers.

To add to the pressure, I was addressing heavyweights such as Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London and potential future PM. As I’ve learned, though, if you do your homework well and construct the perfect pitch, not even the sight of Boris’s blond mop can put you off your stride.

The big five

You might have a heart bursting with passion and a head crammed full of good ideas, but you need to be able to combine the two swiftly and succinctly. Whether you’re addressing one person in an elevator or 200 people in a conference room, there are five key questions you need to be able to answer in the space of 60 seconds to make your pitch perfect:

1. What is your product?

It might seem obvious to you, but your audience needs to be able to grasp the concept immediately or you’ll fall flat on your face at the first hurdle. Keep it short, sweet and simple to understand.

2. How is it different?

This is the hook that’s going to reel them in, the USP that’s going to make your product stand out from the rest of the competitors on the market. Get it spot on and your audience will be caught in the pitch hook, line and sinker.

3. How will you make it work?

You don’t want to get too bogged down in the details (after all, the clock’s ticking). But whether it’s a new model, a new technology or a new approach, you need to explain how it’s going to fit in and function in the marketplace.

4. Why should the audience care?

This is the trickiest one to answer in many ways. The first few questions are about your product, but this one focuses on the audience point of view and addresses what’s in it for them if they get involved. So it has to be both powerful and personalised.

5. What do you need from this person now?

Whether you’re after help with boosting sales, some straight-talking business advice, new contacts or potential partnerships, you need to close with a killer finish. So make sure you’re clear and concise about exactly what you’re looking to come away with.

Making the cut

With these five questions in mind, you need to get your brilliant ideas out of your head and down on paper. After the initial panic when you realise that it won’t all fit into one sheet of A4, let alone one minute of speech, you can start the editing process. Firstly, strip out any unnecessary details. The audience needs just enough bait to get hooked on the idea, but they don’t need to hear about the three years spent in research and development.

Secondly, simplify the language by scrubbing any acronyms or industry-insider lingo, unless your audience is exclusively from that industry. All too often, entrepreneurs (and software entrepreneurs, in particular, are guilty of this) describe their product in such a geeky fashion that the audience can’t understand what it actually does. Finally, mark down where you need to pause and take a breath. It’s only a minute, but it’s still possible to rush it.

Practice makes perfect

Practise, practise, practise, and then practise some more. Pitch to the mirror, pitch to the shower, pitch to the neighbours, pitch to the dog, pitch to your friends in the pub. Do it enough times and eventually you should know the script by heart (keep your notes handy for use in an absolute ‘brain-freeze’ emergency). Finally, visualise yourself effortlessly and effectively delivering your pitch to the rapt audience. Repeat this visualisation as often as you can, and you can elevate your ground-floor dream to a top-floor reality.

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