IMG_4500You have a great business idea, app idea, project idea. You need to convince others of its potential, how do you deliver a great pitch?

Jennifer is 21 and graduating from university in April. She has a great business idea and is trying to explain it to a potential investor.

Fatima is a masters student at U of T who is entering the Imagine Cup technology competition, she has to deliver a 10 minute presentation on her project to convince the judges her team’s project should win.

Mike is a 19 year old college student and he is trying to convince his classmates that his idea is the best one for their term project.

Today I will give you a formula for delivering a great pitch so that you can convince others of the potential of your ideas.

This structure comes from a man by the name of Michael Buschmohle. Michael trains people around the world on how to deliver great presentations. Michael coached teams at the Imagine Cup world finals to help them prepare for their presentations to the judges. He suggests a very effective and simple 4 part structure for delivering a successful, persuasive pitch.

  1. Picture the problem
  2. Promise the potential
  3. Prove the performance
  4. Push the purchase

Drawing a Picture

When you draw a picture of the problem for somebody you want to make the vision of your problem come to life for your audience. One of the best ways to do that is to tell the story of a person affected by the problem you will address, or a person who has the need you are going to meet.

Start with a person, bring that person to life in the mind of your audience, give them a name, an age, a position.

  • Mark a 21 year old college student about to graduate
  • John a 45 year old business traveler and father of two girls
  • Jane a 38 year old who is training for a marathon

Now put that person in a situation where they have the problem or need that your idea will address

  • When Mark graduates he loses the access to mentors and advice he got from his faculty and school just as he needs it the most and embarks on his career
  • John is on the road several times a month, he calls his girls at home but is still feels like he is missing out on watching his daughters grow up
  • Jane wants to get a personal best on her next race, she needs to make sure her training runs are long enough and fast enough to get her ready for the race.

Do you have the picture in your mind now? Aren’t you starting to be curious as to what I am going to do for that person? Compare that to a more common opening such as “Hi my name is Susan, I’m a technical evangelist at Microsoft and today I’m going to talk to you about an app I built that can help others keep track of their training information.’” Opening with the problem and making it personal has more impact and is more engaging.

Now that you have them hooked and wondering how you will address the problem, it’s a good time to take a minute and introduce yourself. Especially when you have a very short time to deliver a pitch, you may not want to open with the introduction, they are more interested in what you are going to do than your name.

Promise the potential

Now that you have provided a picture of the problem or need, you need to promise them that listening to you for the next minute or ten minutes or hour will be a good investment of their time. What will they learn? What will they be able to do after this presentation that they could not do before?

You can use a simple format such as Today I will … so that you will ….

Today I will introduce you to the Mentor network so that you will be able to understand how your company would benefit by having employees become mentors within the network.

Today I will give you a tour of Familygram, a video version of instagram for families, so that you can evaluate the potential return of an investment in the application.

Today I will explain how the PersonalTrainer app helps athletes succeed, so that you can help members of your running club achieve their training goals.

Try to avoid the generic phrase Today I will talk about… of course you are going to talk about your idea or solution, try to be more specific. Today I will demonstrate/walk through/draw you a picture of/…

Prove it!

Okay now deliver on that promise! Explain how your solution addresses the problem or need! You’ve got my attention, now convince me! As you present your solution you might want to anticipate the questions I will have and address them. How much time will it take to bring your solution to life? How much will it cost to create initially? How much would it cost to expand if it is really successful? How much effort will be involved? Are there any risks involved in what you are trying? Has this been done before? If so what’s different about your idea?

Where possible back up your statements with statistics, facts, results from pilot projects or experiments,  testimonials from experts.

Push for what you want

So why exactly did you want to deliver this pitch in the first place? Are you trying to get me to fund you on kickstarter? Are you trying to get me to download the beta of your app? Are you trying to get me to tell others about what you have done? If you don’t tell me what you want me to do, how can I do it?

Provide a specific action for your audience to do: Download the free trial, come here and grab a sample, sign up for the pilot, Like us on Facebook.

Go do it!

Are you a student with a great idea?

Register for the Imagine Cup ( your idea could take you to Seattle Washington for the 2014 World Imagine Cup Finals!

Do you have a great idea for an app?

Download the getting started guide for Windows 8 or Windows Phone and take the first step towards bringing your idea to life.

Are you trying to start a business?

Sign up for bizspark at and free benefits, including software licenses and cloud resources to help you launch your business

See what I did there?

By the way, in case you didn’t notice, this blog post follows the pitch structure described above,I never said subtlety was my strong point.