60s Pitch Perfect: How to do a Successful Elevator Pitch

By Stephanie Kristen Pineda

MY personal experience isn’t really an elevator pitch per se. It’s more of a rollercoaster pitch–with a lot of steep highs and lows with occasional inversions causing your heart to pump wildly and your stomach to churn crazily. It’s so fast that at the end of it I try to recall what happened or if I actually did it.

Let me back track.

I was in Amsterdam from September 10 to 13 at ESOMAR’S 70th Congress to speak about one of the latest innovations we have in Kantar Millward Brown’s Link™–the Instant Messenger. After submitting a video, I was selected alongside 10 young researchers from the globe to present our visionary ideas in 60 seconds, like an elevator pitch. We presented our ideas to more than 1,000 people with the event being live stream. No pressure. The audience then gets to vote who their favourite is to present the idea in more detail on the following day–in Pecha Kucha style!

Honestly, given the stress and pressure I’ve put myself through for the 60 seconds, I told myself that it’s okay if I don’t win. My goal was to avoid stuttering, choking, or falling on the stage (believe me, if you know me, this is possible). Thankfully, none of that happened. Instead, my fellow presenters and other delegates at the conference said I did great.

Before the networking break, everyone was reminded to vote for their favourite, including us. You know those scenes in movies where there’s a big change in soundtrack and scenery because the protagonist is finally gaining strength to win, I think that was when I felt it. When I was choosing who my favourite is to present their idea in full, I voted for myself. Not because I cheekily wanted to win or because I’m competitive, but at that point I truly believed in my idea and myself. I thought we deserved to have that stage–the Instant Messenger deserved to be heard.

Fortunately for me, most people thought so too. So I won the Young ESOMAR Society Pitch Competition.

Now that the ride is over, I can share how I prepped for the craziest rollercoaster ride of my life (for now!).

  1. Research.

This might be the easiest. I’ve looked up how to do successful presentations and elevator pitches on the internet. And in case I win, I also watched a LOT of Pecha Kucha presentations. It’s not about getting a prescription of how to do it perfectly. It’s about getting inspired, especially when you’re lying in bed the entire day and struggling to think on what to say in 60 seconds.

  1. Write a story.

Like some successful ads, there should be a story. The character could be you, what your selling, or your audience. Tell them what the character has been through or can go through. Take your audience into a journey as it’s easier to engage that way.

In 60 seconds, there is time to set-up a problem and identify a solution. Do not dwell on the problem. You might be tempted to end the pitch with a teaser to what the solution is and not specify what the solution is. This is risky especially when the problem isn’t enough to compel people to hear more. At the same time, you might be tempted with the other end of the spectrum, which is to use the time give a grocery list of all the benefits of your idea. Don’t do this because your audience won’t digest it. So make sure that you clearly specify what the solution is and its unique selling proposition. You can then end the pitch with a teaser like, ‘talk to me to find out more about the tool’.

  1. Make it personal.

All the presentations I’ve enjoyed included a personal anecdote. As Alexis Fortune, Fund Manager in Ennismore Fund Management, said in The Investor View during the Congress, “business is personal”. You are pitching yourself and your idea, so it is personal. You’re going to go out there, so might as well show them yourself. For a 60 second pitch, perhaps show a bit of yourself. It adds character to the story you tell.

  1. Learn it, not memorise it.

I’ve written a script that would fit in 60s. But when I was memorising it, I keep stuttering at some parts. My friends reminded me that written language may be different from spoken language. I was probably struggling with some of the words or the sentences because they were unfamiliar to me when speaking. So I said the speech in different iterations without reading the script. I practiced it over and over to come up with a speech that I am most comfortable with. Then I wrote it down and adjusted it to fit in the 60s.

  1. Prepare for the worst.

When you’re practicing, sometimes you’ll find that you’ll miss a sentence or two. Sometimes you get stuck with remembering a word. Or the slide doesn’t work. Or you cough. Or you choke. Or you fall on stage. Believe me, I’ve thought of so many scenarios. But I’ve practiced it repeatedly that I thought, when this happens, continue. Do not let anything hold you back. The timer doesn’t stop. The audience doesn’t know your lines. Just proceed.

  1. Sell yourself too.

Pitching or presenting is really marketing, so time to put what we preach in practice. When you are competing with others, especially when audience gets to vote, wear something striking or do something that makes them remember you. I like what Oriol Bosch, a fellow presenter, did in his pitch. He made sure that people remember his name using Oreo in his presentation. The rhyming of his name with the brand helped with his presentation’s branded recall.

  1. Engage with the audience.

This is so obvious you may be tempted with throwing candies to get audience’s attention or doing a magic trick (like what I almost did). But what you really have to do is talk to them. While it may be hard to get audience participation in this limited time, make sure that your script involves talking to them, like asking rhetorical questions and making them think. Talking to yourself using your slides also helps ;).

  1. Breathe.

The surprising secret to speaking with confidence | Caroline Goyder | TEDxBrixton This is one of the helpful videos I found during my research. Caroline Goyder shared that breath is key to speaking with confidence. I think it’s true.

Remember to put enough breaks in your ‘script’ such that you can breathe. You don’t want to end up sounding like you’re rapping or that you’re in a hurry. Then before you go out there, take a deep breath…

  1. And Enjoy.

Stephanie Kristen Pineda is Global Innovations Manager at Kantar Millward Brown and winner of the 2017 ESOMAR Congress YES Pitch Competition.