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Column: The art of the pitch

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Thomas Heath and Jamessina Hille talk about pitching business ideas to investors and potential clients. (Photo/Provided)What is your story? In business today, whether or not you’re in sales or marketing, the time will come where you’re at an event and asked to introduce yourself, and what you do. Many call this introduction, an elevator pitch.

Recently, I got asked to be the first guest on a new Facebook Live series hosted by branding expert, Jamessina Hille called “The Art Of…” She wanted me to talk with her and her viewers about the art of the pitch. The following are some excerpts from that discussion.
At the very beginning of working with my coaching clients on developing branding and messaging, I start with these three questions for them to ask themselves:

Who are my “peeps?”
Who’s your target client profile?

Where do I find them?
Where do your prospects go? Which events? Which websites and social media sites do they visit?

What do I say to them?
Once you find a prospect, what’s the short, compelling message that’s going to create enough value for them to want to learn more about you or want to work with you?

So, when it comes to what to “say,” when talking about yourself or your business, here are my four tips for a great pitch:

Don’t Make it a pitch:
People don’t like to be sold. Tell them a story. Create value for them. Tell how you can solve one of their problems.

Engage Immediately:
If you don’t capture attention in the first 5-10 seconds, you’ve lost your audience. Start with a compelling, memorable opening. Here’s mine: “Hi, my name is Thomas Heath, and I’m an entrepreneurial geek.”

Focus on Your “C”s:
Connect, clarity, concise and call-to-action.

Connect: Make eye contact. Use authentic body language. Smile, frown, be expressive. Continue to engage. Clarity: Just because you easily understand your message or business doesn’t mean that everyone else will. Make sure your content is clear and comprehensible. Can your words be understood by a sixth grader? And don’t forget the WIIFM Principle (“What’s in it for me?”... What is in it for the listener? Put yourself in their shoes.)

Concise: The No. 1 mistake with elevator speeches or pitch decks is that they’re way too long. It’s alright to leave the audience with additional questions. For an elevator speech, 30 seconds is a good target. For a pitch deck, no more than 10 minutes or 10 slides. Give them just enough to say: “Hmmm, I want to learn more.”

Call to Action: The No. 2 biggest mistake? Forgetting about the “ask.” What do you want your audience to do after you’re done speaking? Ask for your card? Grab a flyer? Schedule a chat over coffee? Download your app?

Practice Your pitch: Once you develop your initial elevator speech or story, go practice it on a few, honest and supportive people for feedback on how to improve it.

Want to learn more about the art of the pitch? Go see my full interview on Facebook.

Thomas Heath, CLC, is a business coach, strategic advisor and founder of Thomas Heath Coaching. Have a question? Planning a great startup event? He loves to respond to our readers. Contact him at or on LinkedIn at

Startup Roundup

An insider’s view into Charleston’s startup community
Curated by Thomas Heath

Welcome to Startup Roundup. As a local business coach and someone who is passionate about the entrepreneurial ecosystem of our city, I created this curated calendar of events for one reason: To help folks determine where to spend their time when it comes to the many startup happenings going on around the Holy City.

Here’s my picks for the best events coming up:

One Million Cups
9-10 a.m. June 14, 21, 28
Think of this as “Shark Tank, without the sharks.” Each week a different entrepreneur presents about their startup business for feedback on how to grow it. The Charleston chapter is known for its nurturing nature and great connections. Come drink one of the free million cups of coffee. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, 1505 King St. Extension, Suite 110, Charleston. Free. No registration required.

CRAFT(ed) Workshop – What Investors Really Think!
4-6 p.m. June 15
Every third Thursday, this event from Dianne Shaver brings the startup community together to learn something new. In this month’s workshop, several local entrepreneurs will pitch their company to accredited investors, but with an added twist. The investors will then share about their actual deliberation process; what they look for in a company; how and why they invest; what they never want to see; and what they love to see. This should be quite eye opening for any entrepreneur seeking funding. LaunchPad, 174 Meeting St. #200, Charleston. $10-15. Reception to follow. Register:  www.TheCondu.IT

Sell Your Product 24/7 with e-Commerce
9-10:30 a.m. June 21
e-Commerce can open up a new world for selling products or services. In this workshop from Score, you’ll learn about online design, hosting, domains, shipping, payments and ramping sales. Program is led by Trey Rust, an expert in eCommerce with 20 years experience and founder of CrowdReach, an e-marketing company. Charleston County Public Services (Lonnie Hamilton Building) 4045 Bridge View Dr. # B-339, North Charleston. $20. Register under “Take A Workshop” at:

Startup Grind
6-8 p.m. June 27
This monthly gathering, sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs, is part of a global startup community that inspires and connects entrepreneurs. At this meeting, Charleston Director Jeremy Berman will conduct one of his “fireside chats” with Kevin Eichelberger, the Founder of Blue Acorn. This eCommerce agency, with clients like Le Creuset and Alex & Ani, has landed on the Inc. 5000 the last four years. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, 1505 King St. Extension. $10. Register:



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