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How I Took My Elevator Pitch from Good to Unforgettable

How I Took My Elevator Pitch from Goo...

Author - Kele Mogotsi, Medium Article

In the past year, I’ve scored highly in two pitch rounds in an entrepreneurship program and I don’t deserve it. Okay, my pitches are clear, concise, and direct. They address the most important criteria in an elevator pitch: the problem, the goal, and the audience. I also delivered them confidently, despite my stuttering speech impediment.On paper, winning these pitch rounds could make sense but it’s not with faux-humility that I say I shouldn’t have won.So, what’s the problem then?They were safe.Playing it safe as an entrepreneur is like mixing oil with water. It doesn’t work. Safe is boring. Safe doesn’t ignite a passion in you or excitement in your audience. Some people might write a check for “safe” but no one is going to want to back you with a blank check and ride with you to the mountaintops for “safe”. For an entrepreneur like myself, in the entertainment industry, safe is kryptonite. Actors are meant to be enigmatic risk-takers, both on and off-camera. These qualities should have been dripping in my pitch.As an actor, I get to tell stories for a living. As a producer, I create these stories from inception. In showbusiness, storytelling is a paramount craft and skill. If entrepreneurs can learn how to harness the power of this neglected skill to their business, it can be a secret, winning ingredient.--The formula vs the story. Which one is better?Storytelling always wins.MBA programs and mentors will often teach you how to craft your pitch. The formula often goes:Hi, I’m NAME + FACT. My company, NAME, solves THIS PROBLEM, helping TARGET AUDIENCE to accomplish THE TARGET’S GOAL.For my startup, that looked like this:Hi, I’m Kele and I’m a triple-whammy actor-writer-producer.My company, 3rd Culture Productions, is a film/TV production company that solves the problem of the underrepresentation of African and other minority groups in the entertainment industry.By creating quality, authentic and engaging Botswana stories, we are giving voice to our marginalized communities and helping the international film industry meet the growing consumer demand for diversity and inclusion.I can spit out this basic elevator pitch in under 30 seconds. It kinda grabs the listener’s attention from the get-go. If I’m lucky, it will sustain their interest for longer than that. It probably won’t inspire them to take action.There’s technically nothing wrong with it except it doesn’t evoke emotion, and therefore, doesn’t impact the listener. We remember things we care about, so make them care.The storytelling approach takes the listener on a journey. It gives them an experience — like watching an unforgettable movie that’s been distilled under a minute.Hint: If you’re not moved when you say it, your audience won’t be impacted when they hear it. Don’t deny them that experience.The formulaic pitch leaves little room for curiosity. Too many entrepreneurs treat it like the main course instead of the appetizers. It’s critical to strike the balance between raising enough interest and curiosity while leaving them wanting more. You have less than 60 seconds so toggling this fine line can be tricky.Hint: Arouse enough curiosity to prompt the listener to ask more questions. Don’t try and get all the major points down. The aim is to be invited back to present your idea again with more time and space to flesh out the presentation.--Show and tell, but more focus on the show and less on the tell.I used to love show and tell in elementary school, which really is like the early stages of learning how to pitch. You may not be after a hefty financial investment but you want everyone to think the science model you brought to class is as cool as you think it is. Decades later in acting class, I learned the art of show and tell in a more profound way: what comes from the heart, reaches the heart. To impact your investors in a few seconds, you need to make an impression on their hearts (aside from winning them over with an ROI). The way to do that is to make it personal.I studied the most impactful pitches by other startups and drew some takeaways. Together, with my actor training, these lessons reminded me that I needed to go back to the drawing board and create a story that would move my audience:Did you know that less than 2% of the biggest movies in recent years were produced or directed by women and people of color? Why is that? Because there are not enough minority groups in positions of power creating the stories. As a black, female, immigrant who’s worked in Hollywood, I found this ludicrous. What’s even crazier is that movies with diverse cast and crews rake in the biggest box office revenues.But somehow, despite audiences telling us their appetite for more representation, the industry has been slow to catch up to the demand for diversity and inclusion.3rd Culture Productions wants to produce quality, authentic, and engaging African stories, so marginalized and forgotten communities can have a voice in showbiz. We believe we can get a piece into this $20 billion global pie.In the first pitch, I explained the problem and presented my business as the solution. In the second pitch, I told a story: I took the listener on a journey by expressing the problem as a major agitation for the industry executives who aren’t capitalizing on box-office revenues, for movie-goers who are tired of non-diverse content, and for minority communities who are routinely excluded in Hollywood.Investors invest in people first, and the company second. You’re effectively selling them on you and what you care about. By showing them what I find personally unacceptable, I’m subtly persuading them to also feel the same way.Instead of telling my name and company, I showed them who I was and how it was important to the story. Too often, we try to put on our take-me-seriously game face, thinking it shows professionalism. Being open with who you are and vulnerable with your feelings shows passion and grit.--In summaryPeople are moved by what moves you.Remember, if you’re not moved when you say it, your audience won’t be impacted when they hear it. Investors are human. People love a good, personal story just like anyone else. Don’t deny them that experience.Book the room.Get them curious enough to ask questions. If you walk away with a check, that’s a bonus, not the goal. The objective is to be called back.