Mastering the 30-Second Pitch

The Upfront Summit brings together the best of LA technology, but it’s also an opportunity for venture capitalists, angel investors, corporate executives and limited partners to engage with the tech startup community. Conferences like these are ripe environments for pitches, so it’s important to come prepared.

I’ve been listening to pitches for almost 20 years in my role as a growth specialist and entrepreneur, and I’ve learned a bit about what makes a memorable and effective pitch. I’ve also judged my fair share of pitches at events such as Web Summit’s startup competition and Harvard Business School Angels, and I wanted to share a few standouts from my experience.

1. Keep it short.

When speaking with industry players at an event, you usually won’t have time for a lengthy conversation. In fact, you attract the most notice by delivering a succinct, engaging and original pitch. The most successful conversation pitches take no longer than 30 seconds, basically the time it takes for a short elevator ride. Trust me, if what you say is concise and interesting, then it will be remembered later. It might even lead to an invitation down the road.

2. Nail down your messaging.

Sputtering new ideas on the spot isn’t an effective pitch strategy, and it doesn’t come naturally to most people. Instead, you should spend time before an event outlining your key messages. What do you do? Why do you exist? What problems do you solve? What’s your goal? Answer these questions, and you’ll have the foundation you need for an effective elevator pitch.

3. Jump in.

You can’t be bashful and deliver a winning pitch. If you’re lucky enough to catch the attention of a senior investor, executive or entrepreneur, then you have to dive in and share something engaging. The key to the mini pitch is to jump in with your eyes wide open, watching the cues of your audience carefully and contributing tested ideas. This brings me to my next point.

4. Pitches have personalities too.

As business leaders, we all have our strengths. We might be affable, direct or informed. Your pitch should also have its own distinct personality. If it’s a particularly likable or thought-provoking pitch, you’ll gain some interest.

5. Constantly refine your approach.

Interpersonal skills are essential in business, especially when you’re looking to master the 30-second pitch. You should observe your audience carefully, watching for signs of interest or ambivalence. Also, don’t be so rigid that you’re afraid to change the course of your conversation; be prepared to adapt. It should be an exchange after all. You might not cover all of your messages in one sitting, but a single innovative, appealing idea can go a long way.

Walter Delph is an entrepreneur and a Partner in BCGDV’s Manhattan Beach headquarters. To learn more about BCGDV, visit our website at

BCG Digital Ventures invents, launches, and scales industry-disrupting new businesses with the world’s most influential companies.

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