How briefly can you tell your company story? Can you boil what you do, who you do it for, and why, into a pitch that is interesting and relevant to the listener?

In a pitching workshop I teach for the Pappajohn Venture School, I teach start-ups how to turn their value proposition and a snapshot of the company’s operational status into an exciting story they can tell in six minutes or less.

The secret is to know your audience and follow the 10/20/30 rule. 

Knowing your audience is critical because it allows you to focus your message around what will be interesting to the listener. Talking to bankers or investors? Play up your market position and profit potential. Talking to prospects? Lead with how you will make their life better. Talking to industry professionals? Go ahead and use the acronyms and jargon you both know so well (because otherwise you have to translate that technical-speak into terms a commoner understands.)

The 10/20/30 rule is this

10 — slides in a presentation deck. Tighten your pitch down to work with no more visual support than that. If you need more, your story is too complicated. Go back to the editing suite and find a more succinct way to communicate.

Your 10 slides will roughly organize to answer these questions.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why should your listener should care? (how are you changing the world?
  • What is your competitive advantage? (do you have a demo? Show it here!)
  • Who is your market ?
  • How you will find customers and keep them?
  • Can you make money from that?
  • Why are you the company that can pull this off?
  • What does your company look like right now?
  • What are your plans and what do you need (from the listener) to get there?

As you’re thinking about the audience, anticipate which of these questions are most important to them. Organize your pitch so you address those early on while still leading listeners up to your final “ask.”

20—minutes. Tell your pitch story in 20 minutes or less. I recommend you be able to deliver your pitch in six minutes or less—much less. If you can do it in a sentence or two, you have you elevator pitch.

30—point type. Keep the number of words on every slide to a minimum, and make the text big enough to read quickly. Twelve words per slide is the goal, but the rule here is set all text to be 30pt or larger.

Guy Kawasaki has made this rule famous and has a great video on the 10/20/30  rule. Watch the video and he’ll have an extra power-tip for you, too!