Over the last decade, I have seen hundreds of pitches--maybe even thousands. Some, I heard at networking events and others at startup competitions.
Luckily, in controlled scenarios such as competitions, there is a time limit for each pitch. Otherwise, I would be pulling out my hair.
Because when startups pitch in a non-competition setting, they tend to go on and on and on about what they do.
They don't know how to give a proper pitch.
A few months back, I met Ryan Foland--an entrepreneur who oversees digital marketing for 25 programs at the University of California, Irvine. He is also a Partner at InfluenceTree, where he and his team teach people how to build their brand, get featured in publications, and growth hack their social media following.
He pitched me something that I was actually interested in. But how did he gain my interest when everyone else lost it?
He explained his revolutionary concept for pitching called the 3-1-3.
I had a chance to sit down with Ryan to have him explain the details. Here is how it works:
Step 1: Tell your story in 3 sentences.
Ryan identified the 3 most important elements of a pitch:
This is common knowledge preached by many books and gurus. Yet, what makes Ryan's approach unique is the limitations he puts in place. He challenges people to explain each of these 3 components in 1 sentence.
When working through this process with his clients, Ryan helps them discover the biggest problem they are solving, then works to explain that issue in only 1 sentence. The same process goes for describing the solution and the target market.
Ryan explains that the problem, solution and market are the keys to communicating your idea clearly and quickly. If you can limit yourself to explaining each in 1 sentence, it will help you get your core message to your audience without overwhelming them with unnecessary information.
If the person you are talking to is truly interested in your idea, he or she will then start to ask questions. You can get into more detail about how your idea works, but only after they begin to ask you questions.
Step 2: Refine your pitch to 1 sentence
Ryan shares that the way to shrink your pitch from 3 sentences to 1 sentence is easy. You take the problem (P), solution (S) and market (M) and combine them into one sentence.
Here's an example of a 1 sentence pitch:
Ryan is disenchanted with the popular concept of an "elevator" pitch. He is on a mission to eliminate it. He feels that it makes entrepreneurs seem rehearsed and disingenuous.
On the other hand, the 1 sentence pitch has been tested hundreds of times. It has never failed to pique someone's curiosity.
When you only share the essence of your idea, people are are curious and want to learn more.
Step 3. Refine your pitch to 3 words.
Yes, 3 words!
Ryan explains that the trick to refining your pitch to 3 words is through the use of relational connectors, such as 'of', 'meets', etc., to associate with other words and ideas that people already know.
By using existing ideas, concepts, words, people and companies as the foundation of the relation, people will think on their own about what you are doing. This puts your idea into their head even when you aren't pitching to them.
If you can find words, ideas, or even companies that have already invested millions in a marketing message, or that are easily recognizable by your audience, you can use them to describe your idea or business in relational terms.
Here's some examples of a 3 word pitch:
The biggest advantage of describing your idea in 3 words is how quickly your idea resonates with the person you are talking to.
Is it a proven science? That, I am not sure about.
But I am sure about my really low attention span.
If people can only explain what they do in a lengthy and unorganized way, it is confusing and takes away from my ability to connect with the idea, no matter how good it may be.
Ryan's 3-1-3 process allowed me to keep asking questions and kept me hooked on learning more.
If he had a product to sell at the end of the day, I would have bought it.
What do you think about elevator pitches? I would love to hear your stories, comment below.