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The Art of the Elevator Pitch


Long before your favorite movie made it to a theater near you, it was presented in a pitch meeting. Hollywood screenwriters typically get three to five minutes to propose an idea, but it takes only around 45 seconds for producers to know if they want to invest. Specifically, producers are listening for a logline: one or two sentences that explain what the movie is about. If there is no logline, more often than not, there is no sale.


A winning pitch starts with a winning logline — a valuable lesson for innovators in any field. The most valuable innovations offer novel solutions to challenging problems. But without the support of investors, even the best ideas might never get off the ground. To influence the people who can turn your idea into a reality, you need to deliver your pitch in an exciting and straightforward way. All this starts with the logline — an art that screenwriters have mastered.


When asked what their movie is about, successful screenwriters have a ready answer that is clear, concise, and engaging. Business leaders are asked a version of this same question throughout their careers:

  • What is your presentation about?

  • What does your startup or product do?

  • What’s your idea?

If you can answer in one compelling sentence, you can hook your audience. According to molecular biologist John Medina of the University of Washington School of Medicine, the human brain craves meaning before details. When a listener doesn’t understand the overarching idea being presented in a pitch, they have a hard time digesting the information. A logline will help you paint the big picture for your audience.


In Hollywood cinema, one of the greatest loglines of all time belongs to the iconic thriller that kept kids out of the ocean during the summer of 1975:


A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.


What makes it work? The logline for Jaws identifies the key elements of the story: the hero, his weakness, his conflict, and the hurdles he must overcome — all in one sentence. It depicts the overarching storyline in an interesting, straightforward way, rather than focusing on details that might seem meaningless without the context of the bigger picture.


Business leaders can use loglines in a similar manner to clearly explain a complex idea. If mastered, this can be a powerful and influential tool. But communicating your point in a simple, digestible way is hard. It’s actually easier to add clutter to business presentations than it is to eliminate unnecessary details and condense. Though mastering the logline is challenging, there are steps you can take to do so.


Keep it short. In his book Leading, venture capital investor Michael Moritz tells the story of two Stanford graduate students who walked into his office at Sequoia Capital and delivered the most concise business plan he had ever heard. Sergey Brin and Larry Page told Moritz: “Google organizes the world’s information and makes it universally accessible.” In 10 words, that logline led to Google’s first major round of funding. Moritz said the pitch was clear and had a sense of purpose.


Read More at https://hbr-org.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/hbr.org/amp/2018/10/the-art-of-the-elevator-pitch

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