Tips and Tricks for a Compelling Pitch

2/18/2016 2:36:46 PM Christine Olivo

The time has finally come for the Cozad New Venture competitors to put their game faces on as the competition’s Elevator Pitch nights quickly approach next Tuesday and Thursday night. In order to move further into the competition, each team will need to present a compelling and professional pitch to their audience.

The mandatory events are set to take place at the Digital Computer Lab on Tuesday, Feb. 23 and in Siebel Center on Thursday, Feb. 25. Both nights will last from 5 to 7 p.m., and teams pitching on Thursday will give their presentation during the Engineering Entrepreneurship course.

Former Cozad contestant and winner, Aadeel Akhtar, presents his pitch on PSYONIC during the 2015 Elevator Pitch Night.
Former Cozad contestant and winner, Aadeel Akhtar, presents his pitch on PSYONIC during the 2015 Elevator Pitch Night.

While creativity is encouraged, competitors must follow a couple guidelines while presenting their pitches. First, every pitch will last one minute and thirty seconds with thirty seconds in between each pitch. Second, only one person per team can pitch, and must be a current University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student. Third, no note cards are allowed, but teams will be allowed to use one PowerPoint slide if they desire. Fourth, pitchers can present a prototype during their pitch.

All pitches will be judged with a score of one through five, based on 5 criteria:

  1. Value Proposition: What are they doing? What problem are they solving for the customer? What value are they delivering to the customer?
  2. Market Opportunity: Why should I care? Opportunity is sizeable enough to go after.
  3. Technology/Product or Service: How are they doing it? Their solution is realistic and feasible.
  4. Team: Who are they? Are they capable of solving this problem?
  5. Pitch: Presented in a clear, concise and compelling manner. Conveyed all criteria within the two minute time frame. (Simply put, do you as a judge understand what they are doing?)

Although competitors will need to keep all of this in mind, there are three people who are able to give pitcher’s the advice they need to make a successful pitch next week; Tom Siegel, Venture capitalist/entrepreneur and former Managing Director of IllinoisVENTURES, Stephanie Larson, Assistant Director of Student Programming and Marketing at the Technology Entrepreneur Center, and Peter Fiflis, a graduate student in nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering and past Cozad New Venture “Breakfast Box” competitor.

In the TEC video “6 Steps to a Great Elevator Pitch,” Siegel explains that your pitch should answer six major questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What are you doing?
  3. Why should I care?
  4. Who is your customer?
  5. What’s your value proposition?
  6. What’s your ask?

“You want to make sure you state things in simplistic terms, so that even your grandma or a 10-year-old can understand what you’re trying to communicate,” Siegel says in the video. “Make sure you’re very clear and concise, because if you lose them here, you’ll lose them for forever.”

Siegel also explains that it is important to talk about three topics: technology, products and service, and why it’s better than what’s currently offered to your market. It’s also important to mention any feedback competitors have received from customers, and how they are going to reach out to those customers.

The last thing Siegel mentions in the video is “the ask.”

“You’re talking to me for a reason: for money to make a prototype, this is where you talk about it. If you need money to hire a sales person, this is where you talk about it. If you’re planning to win Cozad, tell me what you’re planning to do with the winnings.”

Siegel assures viewers that following these steps will push pitchers on their way to greatness. Both Larson and Fiflis agreed with all of Siegel’s tips, but had a few more of their own to provide.

Fiflis said it’s important to be prepared to answer questions where there are holes in the pitch.

“Practice your pitch a few times, give it to some people not familiar with your venture, and ask for feedback,” he says.

While Larson agreed it is important to practice, she says memorization is unnecessary.

“Don’t memorize your pitch – you know it!”

Larson also added that it is important to talk about your team, and why you are capable of accomplishing this. She says that the pitcher should include why judges and customers should care about the venture being presented. She also says it’s important to be excited during the pitch.

“Smile – if you aren’t having fun and aren’t excited about your idea, then the judges won’t be either.”

While it can be easy for teams to get tied up in the excitement and stress of the competition, teams should remember to be passionate, enthusiastic and to have fun through it all.

“Relax, it’s just a pitch,” says Fiflis.