Crafting The Perfect Pitch

Putting together a pitch can feel complicated, but creating an emotionally resonant narrative can help you attract talent and investors.


Serial entrepreneur and angel investor Henrik Scheel, founder and CEO of Startup Experience, shared his pointers for creating a perfect pitch during a Magnuson Center event Monday night. 

Whether you’re pitching your startup to angel investors, trying to sell yourself on a new idea or even aiming to make a good first impression while dating, having a clear, succinct pitch is critical. 

“These types of pitching skills are really useful in all kinds of areas in life,” Scheel said. 

A good pitch should engage your audience emotionally. Many people make the mistake of getting overly technical or complicated when explaining their ideas. However, emotional memories and stories are remembered differently from facts and figures, so if you can craft an emotionally poignant story, people are more likely to recall your idea. 

“If people don’t get excited about [your idea], they’re not going to remember what you do and not going to be incentivized to help you reach the next milestone of your business,” Scheel said. 

The Three Types of Pitches

Entrepreneurs should have three types of pitches at the ready:

  • Elevator Pitch: This is a 30-second overview of what you’re doing and why you’re excited about it. The goal is to pique a person’s interest, getting them curious enough to ask for a follow-up meeting. 
  • Show Pitch: This is a 5-minute pitch, used during follow-up meetings, demo days or pitch competitions. The show pitch should present a more in-depth picture of the problem, the solution, your impact and the financial viability of the idea. 
  • Investor Pitch: An investor pitch is an in-depth analysis of your idea, including a focus on returns and impact. 

No matter what type of pitch you’re delivering or who you are pitching, you should touch on five core areas:

  • The problem
  • The solution
  • The market
  • The business model
  • The team

The best pitches are those that focus on the human impact: how your idea will make people’s lives better. 

“One of the most powerful things you can do as an entrepreneur is tell me about how you’re improving peoples’ quality of life,” Scheel said. 

Creating An Emotional Connection

Relying on your entrepreneurial network is a great way to connect with investors and early employees. However, people who are in these entrepreneurial ecosystems are constantly hearing new ideas, Scheel said. They are tired of hearing about the next great app, but a good story never gets old. 

"If you want to make your pitch memorable you need to use stories,” Scheel said. 

Framing your problem as a story with an emotional hook will draw people in and make your concept stand out. Investors might not remember that you are creating an app to streamline access to mental health care for employees; however, they’ll remember the specific story of Blaire, a star employee who faltered when she couldn’t get adequate mental health care. 

Emotional, memorable narrative will help you stand out from the crowd, which is a huge advantage for early entrepreneurs. 

“Delivery something punchy about yourself and your startup,” Scheel said. 

Addressing Risk

By the time you’re in front of potential investors, you have usually made an emotional connection — your elevator pitch and show pitch have worked to open the door. Now, it’s time to think about addressing risk. 

Entrepreneurs need to address both the product risk and the market risk. Here’s how Scheel thinks about this:

  • Product risk: Demonstrate that you can build the product or idea. Depending on the endeavor, a prototype can go a long way in addressing product risk. 
  • Market risk: Prove that you should build the product, by showing that there is demand. Pre-sales or soft orders can help demonstrate that customers are willing to spend on the product. Demonstrating the market size using the Tam Sam Som model is also helpful at showing the potential for high returns on investment. 

There’s another element that has nothing to do with your idea: It’s about you as an entrepreneur. The integrity and credibility of the founder is very important to investors, said Scheel. Put bluntly, they want to know that you can be trusted with their money. 

With those factors in mind, you’re ready to put together a pitch deck. Scheel recommends structuring the deck to address these points:

  • The vision (your elevator pitch)
  • The problem
  • The product or service
  • The market opportunity
  • Traction, or validation for the idea
  • The revenue model
  • Competition
  • Market growth and strategies
  • The team
  • The financials
  • The investment ask, and milestones

Putting together a pitch can leave you feeling paralyzed, but spending time crafting your pitch will help advance your company.

“You can create your own luck in a way by creating your own opportunities,” Scheel said.