Your Pitch: As Important As The Shirt You’re Wearing

Note: An older, more verbose (worse) version of this post originally appeared on Medium.com. 

Recently, I was in a conversation with an entrepreneur who was asked to give a brief description of his company. He had sunk his time, money, and passion into this business for many years. It was as much a part of his life as his family, as is the case for most entrepreneurs.

Yet, when it came time to explain his company, this massive part of his life, his description fell flat.

How could this be? His pitch was factually accurate and explained what his company did, what markets it operated in, and all the great things that his team was working on. In doing so, the pitch rambled, contained too many details, never struck upon on the bigger picture, and left his listeners with a vague grasp of his company.

In short, his pitch did his otherwise great business a big disservice.

This story is common. Too often, entrepreneurs don’t utilize the time, thought, and discipline necessary to craft a pitch that feels like second nature to them when they need it the most.

The fact is, your business’s pitch is as intrinsic to your business as the shirt you’re wearing is to you.

Here is a four-step process that has worked for me:

1. Write it down.

You can’t expect yourself to be able to organize your thoughts without the methodical benefit of the written word. You’ll be able to lay out turns-of-phrase, adjectives, and markers you want to hit during your pitch. Keep it simple. Make it broad enough to inspire imagination and possibility in the listener, but not so broad that that you’ll be pegged in the “we’re making the world a better place” hole. Not the place you want to be in. Make it short, between one and three sentences.

2. Memorize it.

You are good at speaking off-the-cuff? That’s great. It’s a very valuable skill. Your pitch is not the time to exercise that skill. Speaking without preparation leads to variances in your message; this can cause unintentional confusion between two different parties. It’s best avoided, which is why you should take the time to memorize your pitch, as if they’re lines in a script or notes in a presentation. Read your lines aloud. Practice them for your business partner or marketing lead. Practice with your partner at home; whoever is available. You want to demonstrate fluency and mastery of your material, as if the words are second nature to you.

3. Communicate it consistently.

This is the hard part. Your pitch should be precise and accurate to the word and desired intonation, every time, if possible. This is tedious, frustrating, and boring, and seems like an unnecessary exercise in discipline. But, once you go through this process enough times, not only will the difficulty of that precision lessen, but you’ll sense in the response you get back that the listener is gaining comprehension and understands your business.

4. Tweak it, then go back to the beginning.

This is another beautiful by-product of writing something down. As your business evolves, as trends changes, as milestones are reached, you must go back to your written pitch and tweak to reflect your current state. Your pitch should be a living thing that evolves over time, just as your business does.

Next time you’re online shopping for a new shirt, open up Google Docs and spruce-up your business’s pitch. You’ll look crisper for having done both.