Mastering art of first impressions

As Cynthia Ozick, the American novelist, wrote, “Two things remain irretrievable: time and a first impression.” That’s especially true when introducing yourself to a possible investor.

Ronald Meyers, associate professor of entrepreneurship in the University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, shares insights into teaser statements and pitches.

“Imagine you are in a network meeting as a new entrepreneur,” Meyers said. “There are 100 people in the room, including someone who is your next customer, a potential investor and a critical resource. You can’t possibly meet everyone in the room to identify who these critical assets might be, so how do you find them? The teaser statement.”

A teaser is a single-sentence, high-concept statement that precedes a more detailed pitch and is typically delivered in less than 10 seconds, like a title or headline. For example, Christian Mingle pitched itself using the teaser statement: “A Christian dating site for God-centered relationships.”

“People directly understood the company and the concept,” Meyers said. “A great teaser statement will draw those key resources to you because they can see how your business/idea works and desire to assist.”

A well-crafted teaser statement includes several attributes:

1) An X for Y analogy to explain who you are or what your business does

2) A strong “why” that resonates with the audience

3) An aspirational statement about how your idea makes the world a better place

4) A visual analogy so that the listener can imagine a problem being solved

“Being able to communicate complex information in a way that everyone ‘gets it’ is the key,” said Meyers, offering the following case in point:

“‘We’re the Airbnb of babysitting services.’ This example demonstrates you don’t need a lot of words or details because it is easily understood. Using a clear X for Y analogy can bring simplicity to complex ideas. Now your time can be spent building on your story/pitch about why this problem needs to be solved.”

Creating a successful pitch includes identifying what makes your business worthy of investment. The amount of time you have been allotted for a presentation will influence how detailed you should be.

  • Elevator pitch: less than two minutes

A concise introduction that states who you are, what your experiences have been and what your product or idea has to offer. It is verbally shared in a variety of first-contact situations.

  • Presentation pitches: five minutes

Expanding upon your elevator pitch, briefly describes your story, answers what topic your research, product or expertise entails and outlines how you are qualified to solve a specific problem. This may include a short PowerPoint deck.

  • Presentation pitches: 10 minutes or more

A more in-depth presentation with more details about your business, including the major points of your business plan. This also often includes a pitch deck.

  • Regardless of the time allotted, it is paramount to know every aspect of your company or idea so that you are prepared for follow-up questions.
  • Should a Q&A session follow, keep answers brief and concise.
  • Keep your tone more conversational. Be well-rehearsed but not stiff.
  • Avoid getting too detailed on the technology behind your idea, which will lose your audience. Think high-level overview for the pitch.

As part of the Cincinnati Innovation District, the UC Venture Lab program located inside the 1819 Innovation Hub teaches would-be-entrepreneurs the art of the pitch through the pre-accelerator program.

Featured image at top: Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

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