How to pitch an idea

How to pitch an idea

We’ve all had that feeling, we’re pitching an idea to someone – an idea that we are really passionate about, but we see a blank look develop on their face – they simply aren’t getting it. Here’s how to pitch an idea – any idea and avoid that horrible sinking feeling.

btw. this article is designed for entrepreneurs (or budding entrepreneurs) but if you are an intrapreneur – so you work in a business and you are looking for information to help you ‘sell’ your idea to senior managers, that’s a slightly different article which you can access on this link.

1. Great ideas solve problems. It’s going to sound counter-intuitive I know, but frame your idea around the problem it solves rather than the idea itself.

If possible, project that problem on the person you are describing the idea to, for example, “do you ever find that [the problem] happens to you? Do you find that this has the effect that?” or “I had an idea to solve [the problem that]….which causes real problems because…..” or “I have been looking into this problem of…..because the impact is that……and I think I have come up with a good idea”.

If they are not receptive to, or don’t acknowledge the problem it is unlikely that they will be receptive to the solution / idea.

Similarly, Don’t back your idea into a corner. It’s hard to do because we love to talk about our ideas, but the less you can talk about the idea until you get acknowledgement of the problem, the better. Someone might acknowledge the problem in a different, and potentially more compelling way which might mean that you need to re-frame your idea.

[ezcol_2third]2. Really understand your idea before you share it with other people. I have a golden rule which is to resist sharing my ideas for at least 24 hours! If it’s fresh in my mind, the chances of me being able to communicate it in a way that does it justice is very slim. I never regret waiting, but I’ve often regretted NOT waiting and blurting it out before it’s fully formed!

I have developed a tool to help you describe an idea on one sheet of paper using 5 simple questions. It’s called the Idea Canvas and can be accessed on this link.[/ezcol_2third] [ezcol_1third_end][/ezcol_1third_end]

3. Practice, practice, practice. If your pitch doesn’t roll effortlessly off your tongue, then it’s either the wrong pitch, or you haven’t practiced it enough. Tell people what the idea does rather than what it is.

New readers of this blog won’t be aware that I publish all my ideas online, you can see them all on this link, here are some of my most read ideas to illustrate what I mean:

[ezcol_1third]Brilliant Idea#279. The Gripway – a Limpet farm that makes slipways less slippy

Pitch: Saves countless accidents on slipways by cultivating limpets that eat the stuff that makes slipways slippy at high-tide and provide a grippy surface at low-tide[/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third]Brilliant Idea#274. The Greetings Card subscription service

Pitch: Takes the effort out of sending greetings cards. You enter the dates of birthdays and anniversaries of your loved ones once, or even easier, connect it to social accounts like Facebook and let it do it automatically and it sends you the cards with a pre-printed envelope so all you need to do is sign and post them.[/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third_end]Brilliant Idea #95. Wind-proof fence panels

Pitch. A new type of garden fence panels that won’t fall over in the wind. (by the way, until recently, more people found this blog via a search engine by typing in “windproof fence panels” than any other keyword ;-)[/ezcol_1third_end] [ezcol_1third]Brilliant Idea#241. Live sharing of slides.

Pitch. A simple app that allows conference goes to view, annotate and save the presentation slides on their phones or tablets[/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third]Brilliant Idea #287. The On-Air app for the Home Office. 

Pitch. It’s a simple app for home workers that tells other people in household that you are on an important phone call and not to be disturbed. It uses GPS so if, for instance, your partner comes home with the kids whilst you’re On-Air it recognises when they get near the house and sends an alert to the app on their phone.[/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third_end]Brilliant Idea #139. The 24 Hour Breakfast Show.

Pitch. Radio stations around the World generally put their best DJs on the breakfast show because it gets the most listeners. The 24 hour breakfast show is an internet radio station that plays the peak-time radio show wherever peak time is around the World, so mid-morning for me in the UK I’d be listening to the highest rated breakfast show in, for example Rio de Janeiro and by the end of day I could be listening to the “Good morning Hawaii” show.[/ezcol_1third_end]

4. A prototype is worth a thousand spreadsheets. Some ideas – those that are too far ahead of the audience’s current understanding or too radical may never get traction. You might need to invest something in turning the idea into something concrete – a prototype or test. You can then watch and see how people respond to it as they experience it in real life.

5. Don’t take it personally. Even the best salespeople can’t win every time, and sometimes the payoff isn’t worth the effort. History, even the history of the most successful business leaders is littered with missed opportunities. If you can’t sell them your idea, move on, don’t let it get you down. Every idea has its time, revisit it later, or, even better, have another idea!

You can download a Powerpoint slide of the Idea Canvas by clicking here