I won the event with one of my students… and believe this exercise really helped.
Carl Guess at Elevator Speech reached out to me with this exercise that helped my students and I master the elevator pitch! Using his method is fun and it really helps me when I’m teaching my students how to build an elevator pitch.
Here are three ways to get ready for your pitch.
Ask the students imagine they are reporters covering the startup conference — and have them write a headline that summarizes their entire pitch. Something between five and eight words. For example, you can bring in local newspapers or have them go online and see how different papers write different headlines (i.e., the New York Times is more formal than Re/code).
Getting them to summarize their pitch will force them to really understand it. It will also help them avoid what I call the IKEA syndrome: presentations where someone says first I did to do this, then that, then the other thing. The trap is that they think people are interested in all this process-driven information, but they’re not. They want a presenter to get to the point. Quickly. Once the students have a headline, tell them to look for the paragraph at the beginning of the article that summarizes the piece. Because that’s what they’re trying to do — summarize everything at the beginning of their presentation.
Essentially I’m suggesting an inverted pyramid exercise. Nail the headline. Craft the opening sentence that summarizes everything — and, importantly, becomes the organization for their pitch. Maybe drop a great statistic in that opening. Then repeat the process, blending and smoothing until you have something that sings.
Rehearse On Camera.
Everyone should do their pitch several times on camera in front of the class. It will get them comfortable with being on stage. You can even create a game where you tell them that you or some other staff member might walk up to them on campus and ask “So what’s your pitch?” to see how well they’re beginning to incorporate it into their muscle memory. Note from Alex: Rehearsing on camera helped me a ton! This is a must.
Limit Your Time
Your kids have only a minute — so give them only 45 seconds to make their complete pitches to you. That will give them plenty of time to pause between major ideas when they’re on stage. It will also compensate for their naturally occurring adrenaline and anxiety. As I tell my workshop folks all the time, no one will boot you out of a pitch or a meeting if you get to the point more quickly.
Oh, and if there’s a way to get them to see the stage and stand on it before the startup — maybe prevail on the organizers to give you a tour — that will get them even more comfortable.
Here is another great place to get some more tips on how to master the Elevator Pitch!
How do you think students can benefit from entrepreneurship in their education?