How to craft a compelling 3 minute pitch

Got 3 minutes?

Sometimes, brevity is the best medicine. Or, in the words of Churchill,

“If you want me to speak for two minutes, it will take me three weeks of preparation. If you want me to speak for thirty minutes, it will take me a week to prepare. If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready now.”

But, it’s not that straightforward.

That’s why the South Island Prosperity Partnership called me in to coach a roomful of aspiring innovators who had to effectively pitch their ideas to investors in under three minutes.

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Challenge on!

In this post I’ll share highlights from our coaching session—lessons for anyone who wants to educate and persuade a client into action.

In keeping with that theme, I’m going to squeeze the lessons into a 3 minute read.

Start the clock…

The three slides you need for a great pitch

Guy Kawasaki created a great template for effective pitching called The Only Ten Slides You Need In Your Pitch.

Here they are in summary:

Marc Stoiber_Pitch

Kawasaki describes in sharp, simple language exactly what should go into each slide.

For example, the Go-To-Market Plan is simply, “How you’re going to reach your audience with your selling message without breaking the bank.”

When pitching, don't fall into the trap of using fancy words to cover weak ideas. Share on X

Don’t fall into the trap of using fancy words to cover weak ideas.

Like Kawasaki, keep the language simple and the thinking strong and succinct.

But wait – even with simple language, there’s still a problem. 

Ten slides in three minutes? That’s 18 seconds per slide.

Clicking at this pace will make your audience’s head spin and give the impression you are unfocused.

So I had my group narrow it to eight slides.

They look like this:

Marc Stoiber_Compelling pitch

Everyone had the opportunity to try out their eight points in a mock-pitch.

Guess what the conclusion was?

Still too long.

We agreed that captivating pitches should ideally cover three or four points. But which ones?

Captivating pitches should hammer home three or four points. But which ones?

In my experience, you can’t do without a description of the problem as well as your solution.

You need to touch on the magic in your idea when you make a pitch.

And if you have traction, it’s a sure way to get everyone to sit up and pay attention.

Before I get to that, you might also want to visit this post where I talk about making a powerful human connection with your pitch.

At this point, we all agreed the key three (or four or five) points should be decided on a case by case basis.

And the best way to feel confident the right points had been chosen?

Practice in front of ‘friendlies.’

If you pitch to people, practice with people

Creating a pitch should be a team sport.

Asking outsiders what the most remarkable features of your company are gives you ‘outside the jar’ perspective. It also helps you get to the compelling stuff – instead of losing yourself in points only you think are important.

It never ceases to amaze me how few people bring friendly listeners into the process. The reason? Most of the audience had never bounced their pitch ideas off others.

If you really want to get the most of this exercise, pick friendlies who can understand the headspace of investors. Businesspeople and entrepreneurs? A good choice.

What’s missing from your pitch? Where could it use improvement? Book a session to optimize your pitch with me. 

Don’t pitch – tell your story

It doesn’t matter how compelling your slides are: with 5 people making a pitch before you and 5 after, I can guarantee you’ll be reduced to a dot in the middle of a long blur.


You tell a story!

As humans, we’re wired for stories.

From the time we lived in trees, we told stories to make complex concepts memorable.

For that reason (and many others) turning your pitch into a story will increase the odds your idea will embed in the investor’s head.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a natural-born storyteller.

For the less Mark Twain-y among us, there are templates for storytelling.

I provided four that work especially well when you’re making a pitch.

The origin (founder’s) story:

Compelling pitch_Marc Stoiber

While we’re on the topic, I should point out I’ve written more about the origin story and how it can lead to trouble…

The customer story:

The industry story:

compelling pitch_marc stoiber

The venture story:

compelling pitch_Marc Stoiber

We decided blending the industry and venture stories might provide fertile ground to create a classic three-act play format:

  1. Introduce the characters and setting.
  2. Create conflict, make victory seem highly uncertain.
  3. Resolve. The hero wins and rides off into the sunset.

You can probably identify many of these three-act play points in the industry and venture stories.

Even better, you can see how these stories weave Kawasaki’s slides into an engaging format for listeners.

A captivating pitch takes practice, practice, practice

We finished off our coaching session with more practice.

Then, I sent my group off with a recommendation to continue practicing, up to the moment they took the stage to make their pitch.

Practice is the one absolute necessity in this process — It’s also the part most of us naturally shy away from.

We say it’ll “ruin our spontaneity.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Ruthless rehearsal gives you calm confidence in your material. And when you feel calm and confident, spontaneity happens.

Rehearsal doesn’t ruin your spontaneity. Quite the opposite!

I hope this brief review helps you fine-tune your own three-minute pitch and illuminates some points you may not have considered.

And hey, if nothing else, I hope it provided an entertaining read, in under three minutes.

Stop the clock!

Is your pitch presenting a dramatic problem? Is your solution positioned properly? Is your story memorable? Do you leave your listener with something to remember and think about? These are all questions we cover when you optimize your pitch with me. 

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