Essex Business School sat down with the Head of Start-Up Support at the University of Essex, Andy Mew, to get advice for students on how to pitch your business idea to investors.

Why is it important to create a business idea pitch?

It’s important as a business owner to create a pitch because you often know what you do but when you’re asked to explain it you can struggle to put it in a way that other people understand.

Creating a business pitch helps you to simply, and easily, tell people what you do and how it could help them.

What is an elevator pitch and why should you practice one?

An elevator pitch is a short, punchy and persuasive sixty second verbal presentation of your business, its core values, the problem you’re solving, and why people should be interested in what you do. Where possible, it should end with a call-to-action from the individual/group you’re presenting to.

You should practice it often because it will give you confidence and – the better the delivery – the more you will impress the audience. You should also practice because sixty seconds goes a lot quicker than you think and you don’t want to run out of time without telling people crucial information.

What do you need to consider when creating a pitch?

For me the five key aspects should cover you introducing yourself, the need for your product/service, the approach you take to deliver this, the key benefits, and the competition.

Demonstrating these is a great way to show your expertise. It also shows awareness of other people operating in your area, allowing you to define what’s different – and better – about your business than theirs.

What if your business idea isn’t complete yet?

I don’t think any business is ever truly ‘complete’. They all look to grow, scale and establish themselves in new or bigger markets. They constantly evolve.

The key thing is to be honest but also to ensure you’ve done the minimum required to ensure your pitch is about a viable business that is up and running – or will be shortly – with a solution that people can take advantage of.

What should you prepare?

If you need to, use a ‘revision card’ and put the key bullet points on it to ensure you cover the relevant points, and make sure you’ve got business cards or any useful handouts for people who ask for them afterwards. Don’t be afraid to follow-up conversations by asking if someone’s on LinkedIn and connecting with them.

If there’s someone you know in the audience, ask for feedback. Nobody’s perfect and you can always be better when it comes to pitching.

How much research should you do?

The biggest mistake I see people make when it comes to their pitch is saying “There is no one else doing this right now.” Quite often that’s not the case and the simplest way to find this out is to do a quick Google search.

When doing research you should look at a wide-range of resources – search engines, social media, ask friends or family etc. Make sure you’ve done enough research to feel confident about the key pillars of your business.

Final words of wisdom

Relax. People want to hear what you have to say, especially if your business can solve a problem for them. Take your time, be polite and professional, but make it feel like it’s a conversation.

People hate ‘hard-selling’ but if you practice your pitch, practice your delivery, and show that you enjoy what you do, that will come through and the right people will seek you out for follow-up conversations.