So Little Time, So Much To Say      

You’re an entrepreneur.  You are proud of your accomplishments, of what you’ve learned and achieved in developing your start-up.   You can explain clearly and concisely how you can contribute to a company using what you know. Or, you can clearly communicate to investors why your new venture is a surefire success and what will differentiate it from the competition.

Or can you?

If you are like the majority of entrepreneurs I have spoken to, you have not taken the time to map out what you want to say. You trust your instincts to say the right words at the right time. And, like the majority of entrepreneurs, you will miss opportunities because your message was not short, crisp, or compelling.

It’s easy to get so caught up in your vision that you fail to see that others cannot see the picture quite as clearly as you do.

I coached an entrepreneur last year, a brilliant woman, who envisioned a way to bring order and clarity to the way companies do business with a breakthrough technology. When she told people about her vision, they were more likely to scratch their heads than pull out their checkbooks. Her reaction was that it was their problem that they didn’t understand.

Perhaps it was. But if she could not turn them into an investor or evangelist, it was clearly a case where “their problem” hurt her more than it did them.

You may want to try this experiment. The next time you are attending a conference or networking event, tell your story to three people as you introduce yourself, and watch closely to see how they react. Was there interest? Did they respond the way you expected them to? Did the information lead to further conversation? If not, you may want to do a lot of brushing up.

Elevator pitches

You may have heard a brief introduction described as an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is where the main points are planned, but the actual delivery is spontaneous. It addresses the all-important WIIFM issue or “What’s In It For Me” for the listener.

If you can show the person you are conversing with why they should care about what you just said, you have recruited a prospective evangelist or an investor.

If the person you’re talking with says, “Oh, how nice,” and moves on to another topic, you have lost an opportunity.

The payoff of your introduction must have relevance to the listener. And, different listeners have different payoffs.

Here’s what I mean. Your listener is unique each and every time. And this is where planned spontaneity comes in. Even if you can place your listener into one of several different groups – as a potential investor, or advocate – you want to know as much as possible so you can identify the person’s special interests and customize your dialogue.

Your introduction should begin by defining the critical elements.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • How does your service, product, or skills benefit your listener?

Your answers should be specific, not generic. Beware of a message that would apply equally to any of your competitors. Be rigorous. Test out your pitch on people who know you and people who don’t. Make sure you are describing your specific skills, ideas and accomplishments, not just something that could apply to any entrepreneur in general.

Once you have the basic parts down, start thinking about the different audiences you will run into.

The last part of your message is:

  • What do you want the listener to do?

Your response will vary if you are talking to a potential investor, or simply someone who may recall you and pass your information on the next time they are talking about your industry or market. Practice different calls to action until you are comfortable with them.

The final step, if you are fortunate enough to learn a little about the person you are meeting, is to make your message more personal by relating it specifically to the person, as in: “I understand your firm invests in …”

Or: “Brian Cooper mentioned that your company was in the market for …” The more personal you are, the better chance you have of your call to action being heeded.

It takes more effort to be succinct than to be general. And it takes discipline to turn a casual introduction into a business opportunity.

As an entrepreneur, don’t you think it’s worth a few hours of effort to make sure that when you meet someone in a business or casual situation, you both walk away with the best possible understanding of how you might do business in the future?



“The three things you cannot recover in life: the WORD after its said, the MOMENT after its missed, and the TIME after its gone.”