Pitching: Get the first 10 words right

What are the first ten words of your next pitch, speech or presentation?

Participants of Wayra Week Barcelona 2012

I was at Wayra Week Barcelona this week working with 30 selected startup businesses to prepare their companies for growth and investment.  All were looking to raise a round of venture capital financing for their businesses.

I spent a lot of time going from group to group asking “what are the first 10 words of your pitch for tomorrow?”

I received a range of replies:

  • “Huh.  Oh.  Ah.  Yeah.  My name is… and our business is …”
  • “We are a platform for connecting users to providers…”
  • “We have a solution for the publishing industry…”
  • “Hello.  Thanks.  I am very happy for this opportunity…”
  • “Uhh.  Why?  Only ten words…”

These answers are lessons in putting audiences to sleep.

Lets get it clear.  Investors hear hundreds of pitches.   They know they are probably not going to invest in your business and want to confirm this assumption as quickly as possible.  They have years of experience in knowing when to switch off listening to the pitch and check their email on the blackberry, or plan their ski weekend.  Why let them tune out before you have finished your first 10 words?

What should the first 10 words achieve?

  1. We are not here to waste your time
  2. We are professionals (we prepare well and practice lots)
  3. We are a serious business
  4. We know what you are interested in
  5. We know what criteria you will use to take this decision

The first 10 words are vitally important.  The first 10 words gets you attention for 30 seconds.  You then have 30 seconds to earn attention for the next 5 minutes.  If your first 10 words loses the audience, you will not get them back.

What are your first 10 words of your next pitch, speech or presentation?  

I think there are only 3 ways to start a pitch.  Interested?

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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