Picture yourself on a stage, in front of a huge audience packed with investors and CEOs, and you only have three minutes to spark their interest. What would you say? That is the startup’s dilemma, and was the challenge of the moment at Start Up Rounds Final Showcase this week at Microsoft New England. Set along the beautiful (but frozen) Charles River, ten startups competed for cash prizes and resources in front of a team of well-established judges, CEOs, and tech enthusiasts.
After a full night of watching how these startup finalists either did or did not grab the attention of the audience, we were reminded of the struggle so many companies face in keeping their messaging tight and compelling. So here are some tips for making your message clear and memorable in three minutes or less:
Get Straight to the Point
When you only have three minutes to get an investor’s attention, get straight to the problem you want to solve and show how you can solve it better than anyone else. That’s the only way the audience is going to get who your company is and why it exists.
The company that got right to the point on Monday night was Blanc Inc, promoting their smartwatch, “Spark.” CEO Eddy Zhong, (a bright and brash 17 years-old) kicked off his pitch with a problem most people can relate to - falling asleep in class. The solution? To stay alert and save time, Zhong created Spark. It’s not only a stylish watch, but if you start to doze off, it vibrates. Zhong delivered a relatable pitch and addressed one major criticism. He explained that yes, this could be just be one of many features in other smartphones, however his watch has a unique style and is less than half the cost of most smart watches, selling at $39. Zhong’s message rang loud and clear both at the event and via Kickstarter - Spark surpassed its $8,000 goal by raising $10,849 with 255 backers.
Draw Instantly-Recongizable Parallels
“Freight Frog is the Kayak.com of moving companies.” Early on in their pitch, Freight Frog used this clear analogy to relate their company’s goal to one that we’re already familiar with. This can be an extremely effective way to grab the attention of your audience and help them quickly absorb your message in seconds. But in order to make these kind of big, bold statements, and borrow off the equity of another established brand, you’d better be able to credibly back it up. In this case, they did. Freight Frog went on to explain that their website will give you an instant flat price for your move in under one minute, with access to volume rates that are often ⅓ the price of moving and truck rental companies.
Make It Memorable by Getting Personal
When you only have three minutes to sell your company, go for a direct hit to the heart. While some were better at this than others, the majority of presenters at Startup Rounds found a way to engage the audience through personal storytelling. A friend of one of our Tier One teammate’s, Lindsay Reilly of Lindsay Tia, engaged the audience by sharing her impressive journey in the fashion design world, using amusing anecdotes to share how all of her designs are inspired by her personal experiences. And although Tess Johnson, the creator of NOMAD backpacks, was unable to make it to the actual event, she brought tremendous enthusiasm to her pitch via Skype -- and leveraging that medium in what came across as a surprisingly intimate way, in and of itself, made her pitch memorable.
While all of the startups at the event made a valiant attempt to convince the judges, only one could come out on top:. Freight Frog (aka the Kayak.com of moving) took the grand prize of $20K, but it was one great learning experience for the nine other finalists.
So, if you find yourself with only minutes to get your message across, test it against these tips and you’ll truly discover how brevity is not only “the soul of wit” but the key to winning over any audience.