Last year, YOUNG MONEY provided exclusive coverage of the first ever Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) Elevator Pitch Competition, which featured live business plan presentations from the country’s top entrepreneurial students (December 2003, p. 2). Since that time, we have received countless requests to provide a “how to” guide to delivering a winning elevator pitch.
We recently tracked down Troy Byrd (organizer and emcee of the CEO Elevator Pitch Competition) to pick his brain on this very question and more. Three years ago, he created his own job when he founded the Global Entrepreneurship Program at Bryant College, which has since received recognition by Entrepreneur magazine in its annual ranking of top collegiate programs.
Byrd has organized several E-Pitch competitions, mentored students all over the nation on their pitches, and has even competed in one himself where he picked up $5K from the Coleman Foundation to launch the Entrepreneurial Extravaganza – a joint venture with Brown University. In 2003, his efforts caught the attention of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. Byrd was also named the first-ever Rhode Island Research Advocate of the Year.
YM: What sparked the idea to create the CEO Elevator Pitch Competition?
BYRD: Entrepreneurship is about action. I had attended past CEO conferences and noticed that while CEO featured some of the best entrepreneurs under the sun, the conference lacked an outlet that would give young entrepreneurs the center stage to pitch their idea to potential investors, and compete for cash prizes. After several pitches to CEO, they bought into the idea and away we went.
YM: For those who might be unfamiliar with the term elevator pitch, please explain what it is and why it is so important.
BYRD: The elevator pitch is a clear, concise and compelling summary of a business opportunity. Communicating an idea is essential to success as an entrepreneur and nothing accomplishes this better than a dynamic, well-refined pitch.
YM: What is the biggest difference between a pitch in a competition and a pitch in the real world?
BYRD: The competitions have a short time limit, which forces a slight modification of the real world pitch, and they also don’t allow for questions.
YM: How popular are these competitions at college institutions?
BYRD: Over the past several years, they have emerged onto college campuses across the nation. And for good reason! Not only does it present students with a prime opportunity to pitch their idea and compete for cash prizes, but it also serves as a real world practice test.
YM: What can you do if your institution lacks a competition?
BYRD: Create one! Present the idea to the entrepreneurship program director and/or the college president, dean, or even a faculty member.
- Engage the audience. [They will have all kinds of ideas running through their head. That's what you want. I get it! I'm familiar with this! I see how this could work and/or make money!]
- Display passion, energy and confidence.
- Be clear about what you are looking for.
- Slow down and speak clearly.
- Speaker gets too excited and does not complete sentences.
- Speaker rushes ahead and skips information.
- Presenter lacks confidence and passion.
- Material is too complex or gives too much information.
- Presentation missing the most critical information.
- Presenter fails to give audience a chance to ask questions.
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