#1 Start at the end
#2 Keep it simple and focus on how people benefit
#3 Avoid complex details when talking to non-specialists
Improve the pitch
I was part of a great conversation with three other business owners — we were sat having a post-dinner drink at the Chinaccelerator mentor dinner after the GMIC conference in 2017 (GMIC is Asia’s largest and leading technology conference).
One of the guys around the table was introducing his company and started telling us what he does, and we proceeded to discuss how he could improve his opening pitch.
This story is particularly interesting because his company works in nuclear waste disposal. Which is an insanely complex field and I think if it’s possible to simplify and clearly pitch nuclear waste disposal than its possible to pitch any business which is why I’m sharing this story.
But back to the beginning of his pitch.
As he started pitching his company, he went down the same path as many people do, and I used to. He began telling us what he did and how it worked, which if you are not a scientist soon becomes way too much information and stops making sense.
I think people start going deep on what they do as they feel the audience needs a full context and background to understand how and why it matters which is right — but not as a way to start the conversation.
His pitch went something like this:
1 — How he was qualified
2 — What his company and technology does
3 — How the science works
4 — Where they do it
5 — A final claim
Keep it simple
I understood most of what was said, but some of the science flew right over my head — the thing that stuck out was his last sentence.
“We call it closing the loop on the dangers of nuclear waste — our process and technology make it 100% safe.”
“Closing the loop” That was it for me, and I think what concerns most nonscientists. How is nuclear waste managed and made safe?
As with all pitches, I hear I’m always looking for the why.
Why do we relate to the solution?
How does it impact us?
How do we understand it?
How do we connect with it?
Start at the end
In my 20-years of experience nine times out of ten, it is the last thing people say which is the best way to start. I’m often recommending people reverse their pitch and start at the end — start with the overarching conclusion and work backwards.
Our fellow dinner had focused too much on what nuclear waste is, and the technical details of how to make it safe, which to ley-people makes little sense.
For non-nuclear physicists, we only know the scary headlines of leaks, spills, and contamination the highly dangerous aspects, the glowing green ooze from movies.
That’s why we want nuclear waste to be managed and disposed of safely; that’s why we want the loop to close.
Focus on the why
As we discussed his pitch, I suggested that ‘why’ we need a company like his is to make nuclear waste safe by closing the loop. Do we want to know how that works? Not really. We don’t know how a smartphone works, and that doesn’t stop us buying them.