30 May 2023

3.5 Pitching your ideas

Author/Compiled by
May Haghour (cewas)

Executive Summary

As a young professional, who aspires to tackle some of the most urgent issues in the water and climate sectors worldwide by developing an innovative and creative project, you will need to be prepared to take every opportunity to gain interest in your project from potential target groups, end-users, customers, investors, partners, and/or associates. If you want to grow as a company you will need to network and invest efforts into connecting with potential stakeholders and clients. Networking opportunities can arise in a variety of settings such as in formal meetings, networking events, conferences or even during improvised conversations on a train, at a party or in a lift. It is therefore absolutely vital for you to have an interesting and concise pitch (speech) ready that summarises your project’s overarching mission and vision and use it to get your listeners on board with your project, whether this is through supporting, investing, or becoming one of your future target group/clients/end-users. This factsheet leads you through the process of creating and fine-tuning two of the most used types of pitches that can be adapted to any situation and audience.

Factsheet Block Body


Coming up with innovative ideas to tackle complex global challenges in the water and climate sectors might be a relatively easy task for promising young professionals such as yourselves, however communicating these ideas and translating them into real on-the-ground projects is a complete different kettle of fish. Presenting a project can be a daunting mission even for the most experienced entrepreneurs, sales people, and marketing experts.  Luckily, coming up with a great pitch is something that you can do with a lot of preparation and once you have a good one the only thing left to do it use it over and over again. There are many types of pitches that an entrepreneur can use, however the ones that have proven most useful are the Elevator Pitch and the Investor Pitch. Let’s get to know them both and see how you can use them to pitch your project:


Elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark that initial interest in your project. A good elevator pitch should be as short as possible — roughly the length of an elevator ride. Elevator pitches should be interesting, memorable and succinct, and need to explain what makes you or your project, product or idea unique.

You can use an elevator pitch in many situations: during formal meetings, at networking events, or during spontaneous conversations. Your elevator pitch can also be used for different objectives, such as pitching solutions and services to target groups/end-users/clients, introducing your project to potential target groups/end-users/clients, investors, and/or partners, … etc. Keep your intended audience and objective in mind throughout the process of developing your elevator pitch, as these will determine the content and style of your pitch.

Creating an Elevator Pitch

1. Identify Your Goal

What is the objective of your pitch? Do you want to tell potential target groups about your project? Do you have a new idea that you want to pitch to other students and departments from your university? Your goal will change depending on your audience and what the context of your meeting is, so alter your pitch accordingly.

2. Introduce Yourself

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, the first thing you should do is introduce yourself! Give your name and a few other details that make your listener interested to know more about who you are and what you’re doing. An elevator pitch should sound personal and natural, so don’t forget this key step.

3. Explain What You Do

Your pitch should clearly describe what your project does and why it does it. Try to engage your listener’s emotional side by focusing on the problems that you’re solving and how you help people.

4. Communicate Your USP

Your elevator pitch also needs to communicate your unique selling proposition, or USP. Identify what makes you, your project or your idea unique and stand out in the market.

5. Put it all Together

When you've completed each section of your pitch, put it all together. Then, read it aloud and use a stopwatch to time how long it takes. If your pitch is longer than 2 or 3 minutes, you risk losing the person's interest, or monopolizing the conversation. Your pitch needs to be snappy and compelling. The shorter it is the better!

6. Practice

Like anything else, practice makes it perfect. Without some practice, you’re more likely to make mistakes like talking too fast, sounding unnatural or forgetting important elements of your pitch. Body language is important, and conveys just as much information to the listener as your words do. Practice in front of a mirror or in front of colleagues until the pitch feels natural. Don’t forget to breathe, maintain eye contact and be natural!

Now that you have learned the essentials for preparing your elevator pitch we will tell you the most common mistakes that young professional make when preparing/conducting their elevator pitches. Let’s find out what these are…

Common Mistakes of Elevator Pitches

  • Giving too few/too many details: you want to get your key points across while not overwhelming your audience with details. Give only enough detail to form a compelling argument.
  • Being too pushy: Try to speak naturally. Your elevator pitch should sound like a smooth conversation, not an aggressive sales pitch.
  • Lack of enthusiasm: Your elevator pitch should excite you first and foremost. After all, if you don't get excited about what you're saying, neither will your audience.
  • A disinterested audience: Try to be as engaging as possible. This means being careful not to take too much time or monopolise the conversation. Be in tune with how your audience is responding to you. One way to engage your listener is to ask open-ended questions to involve them in the conversation.
  • No follow-up: Try to keep a business card or other take-away item with you, which will help the other person remember you and your message.

Don’t forget to scroll down and read from further resources about preparing and delivering an outstanding elevator pitch. The next pitch we will look into is called the investor pitch and has a slightly more concrete purpose.


Investor pitch

Using an investor pitch you presents  your business model in a way that shows your project’s potentials for scale in front of potential investors with the aim to raise money for your operations.

What is an investor pitch about?

An investor pitch is a persuasive presentation used to present your project to prospective venture capital (see info-box) investors or business angels. During an investor pitch, it is important for you to tell the audience a compelling story about your project and its potential to grow and make profits in the future (if this is a goal of yours). A successful investor pitch can both be very individual and raise interest in your project and convince investors of them missing a great opportunity if they do not invest in you (ILGAZ, 2015).

Generally, you can present your investor pitch using the so-called deck or pitch deck which is a presentation that provides your audience with an overview of your project in an attractive and concise manner. We also advise you to have a short summary document ready (or your Sustainable Business Model Canvas) that you could leave behind to provide additional information if needed. The pitch is meant to showcase your developed solutions/services/products, technology, business model, market analysis as well as yourself and your team. But it should also present your needs in terms of requested funds and the return on investment (ROI) that you are expecting. Keep in mind that even impact investors who are looking for meaningful activities, especially in the water and climate sector, are also looking for financial profits. Some investors are only interested in numbers, but (environmental and/or social) impact investors would like to know also what the project achieves in terms of (environmental and/or social) impact for direct and indirect target groups (GIIN, 2018).

For inspiration, scroll down to our further resources section and watch TV programs where young professional and start-ups pitch in front of investors and have to answer particular questions on their business model in order to receive a potential offer for investment. (Dragon’s Denshark tank).

Why is a high-quality investor pitch important?

One of the most important factors for scaling up a project in climate and water sectors is to raise sufficient money to finance the establishment and future expansion. You as young professionals should expect to be confronted with high financial needs during your project’s take-off phase when developing your project. You will be needing such investments, for example,  for social marketing and marketing activities in order to raise awareness among people, to create a market, to build up your delivery systems, to increase your commercial activities or to increase, streamline your production capacity … etc. You must therefore make the most of opportunities to raise capital from different channels and have a good presentation of your project ready so that you never miss potential investments.

How can you develop your own investors pitch?

To conduct a successful investor pitch you need to develop a concrete presentation telling your unique story and  share your key experiences/information related to your project. It is also important for you to become a great presenter: this means that you must think about what you will include in your messages and how you will deliver it so that it has the power to influence a potential investor.

Final thoughts

Regardless of what type of pitch you go for, getting the right messages across effectively is not as straight forward as it sounds. You as the entrepreneur know too much about your project and will be too involved to find it easy to simplify your project and make your pitch accessible for potential investors, who might not necessarily know anything about what it is that you do. It might be worth getting help from someone who is not involved in your project and test with them whether the pitch is clear and engaging. (PATEL, 2015).


Go to next topic!

3.6 Marketing

Library References
Further Readings

Win the Business With This Elevator Pitch

This article published by the Harvard Business Review gives some important pointers when it comes to talking style and being convincing with your elevator pitch, accompanied by an examples of both an ineffective and an effective elevator pitch.

MARTIN, S.W. (2012): Win the Business With This Elevator Pitch. Cambridge: Harvard Business Review URL [Accessed: 14.01.2013]

The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch

This Business Week article describes some key aspects of a good elevator pitch and how to create it, rehearse it, and tailor it for a specific audience.

PINCUS, A. (2007): The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch. New York: Bloomberg L.P. URL [Accessed: 14.01.2013]

Listen as Start-ups Pitch investors for funding

The Pitch provides podcasts about business pitches and background information for entrepreneurs. Each episode takes you behind closed doors to the critical moment when aspiring entrepreneurs put it all on the line. The Pitch delivers on the high-stakes promise of a live pitch without shying away from the nitty gritty details of what happens after everyone shakes hands and walks out of the room.

THE PITCH (EDITOR) Listen as Start-ups Pitch investors for funding. URL [Accessed: 20.04.2018]

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