A successful entrepreneur’s skillset always includes a pitch. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about your business to a bank, to a panel of judges at a pitch competition, to an angel investor, to a guy in an elevator, or to a family member – you have to be able to persuasively describe your idea clearly and succinctly. Otherwise you run the risk they’ll lose interest, get confused, or simply decide it’s not worth their time.

The counselors at the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and North Iowa SBDC have years of experience helping students, new entrepreneurs, and experienced entrepreneurs pitch their business to banks, competitions, and investors. Here are their top five tips for perfecting your pitch.

Be clear

Keep it simple. What problem does this solve? What is the immediate benefit? How does your idea add value? Don’t add unnecessary or extraneous information that might distract your listener or make them say No.

Consider your audience

The pitch for one group, say a potential equity investor, may not be the pitch you use with a potential strategic partner. Think about what’s important to the audience. If you’re clear about customer and customer benefit, investors (debt or equity) will follow. Be internally consistent in the story you tell with words and numbers. Some of your audience starts with the words and checks the numbers. Other listeners start with the numbers and check the words to make sure they match.

Don’t try to cover every single detail

Your goal is to set the hook and catch their interest, not overwhelm with minutiae. Once they’re intrigued, an interested audience will ask you the follow-up questions to extend the conversation.

Focus on the benefits, not the “how”

Customers don’t buy technology for the sake of technology – they buy results. When you can clearly define what problem (aka pain point) you’re solving, and who your bullseye target customer is, potential investors can see that you’ve done the research, you know the market, and you have something that people will want. For the most impact in your pitch, there should be some conversion to dollars in potential market size or financial benefit. But don’t forget – the customer is the most important part of the equation. Spending too much time explaining your technology or technological ingenuity can actually be self-defeating. Plus, by focusing on the benefits you don’t have to give away any intellectual property.

Be memorable

This doesn’t mean you have to indulge in high visibility gimmicks, crazy hats, lots of yelling, or improbable promises. On the other hand, once your audience is bored, you’ve lost them. Your first and last sentences will be the most memorable. Use them to showcase a well-constructed value statement that clearly expresses why your idea is important. While you should know your data inside and out, don’t fall into the trap of over-rehearsing. Stay loose and embrace the fun of telling someone about this idea you’re passionate about.

When it comes to making a pitch, practice definitely makes perfect. The best way to improve your elevator pitch is keep refining and revising it. Sometimes an outside perspective can also help. The Pappajohn Center provides free business consulting. If you’re looking for help to improve your business pitch for a venture competition, in order to apply for a loan, or in your search for investors, we can help. Call the Pappajohn Center at (641) 422-4111 or email us at pappajohn@niacc.edu.