Christian Cieri – Illustrator

Have you ever wanted to pitch a new technological idea that you’ve had?

Maybe it’s for work, and you want to convince your boss on what a great new implementation it would be.

Or, maybe it’s to your group of friends, just to see what they think.

Or, maybe you want to take it further and see if people with business backgrounds might be interested, or want to invest in it.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet with Chris Lipp, a professional pitching coach for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond. And, while he’s certainly made his career on the investment-focused kind of pitch, it turns out the basics of presenting a technological idea are pretty universal, no matter whom you’re trying to convince.

Whether it’s for casual fun or an intense new startup, being convincing is really hard, but there’s a formula you can use to succeed more often and more intensely.

Here’s some of the advice I got from Lipp.

First off: always start with the problem.

Humans like to think from problem to solution, not the other way around, and too many enthusiastic idealists like to start with how they solved their issue without giving the proper context.

Laying out details such as where the problem originates, who it affects, what the pains are and which existing trends are related to it are all great ways of getting your audience interested. It also plays on their curiosity; if you start with the problem, they’re going to be wondering what the solution will be and will hang on to your words for much longer.

Once you do get to the solution, be concise! People want to know what your solution is by this point, so make sure to focus on clarity, clarity, clarity.

Most technical pitches start this section with what they call a UVP–the Unique Value Proposition, a concise and to-the-point sentence that describes everything you do without any conceptual fluff.

After the summary, a good way to round out this section is to highlight how the features lead to benefits – if a phone has 2.21 gigawatts of power, that’s just a feature, but if that means you can use it for longer or run more powerful apps, those are  benefits that people really care about.

And it’s always good to have a demo for this section to fully demonstrate that you’ve got something to show, and that your ideas have real credibility.

After these sections, you can move on to the marketing and business aspect of your idea.

If you’re not thinking of launching a startup, of course, these can just as well be renamed your users and your implementation, and are equally important even if you’re not interested in starting a company!

Your marketing portion should be all about who you think is going to be interested in using your invention.

This isn’t the place to talk about how much you like the idea, or how much your mom did, or that your neighbor said they’d use it.

Try to come up with an ideal target user, and explain why your creation is good for them. After you’ve established who you want buying/trying it, move on to size and advantages. How many people are going to use it? If you’re selling, how many will buy it? And why do you have the advantage over other similar ideas that might compete for their attention?

Finally, you’ve got to explain how you’re going to do these things. This is where your credibility really counts. Have you done your research? Do you have validation for your ideas? Where will you start, and where will you go? What are your milestones?

Anyone is going to want to know what your process will be, no matter how big or small your venture.

And, if your answer is “I don’t know” or “I’m still figuring it out,” it’s time to do some serious reconsideration.

Hopefully, these tips will help out if you ever decide that crazy idea you’ve been mulling over is really worth pursuing in the long term.

If you’d like some more detailed advice, I’d certainly recommend that you check out Lipp’s book, “The Startup Pitch.”

It’s not the right choice for everyone, but it’s certainly a start if you’re looking for tips on how to be more convincing.

Happy pitching!

Copeland is a member of  the class of 2015.

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