The tradeshow pitch; 30 second training guide

Best practices for your 30 second elevator pitch:

Think in terms of 3 bullet points

  1. What is the problem in the market (why does your product/service exist)?
  2. How do you solve that problem?
  3. Why is your organization unique?

If you focus on these 3 things, you will have a concise pitch delivery. Other aspects of getting your pitch down across your entire organization:

* Recording the pitch
* Components of a good pitch
* Developing a good pitch
* Testing your pitch
* Customizing your pitch
* When to give the pitch
* Common pitch mistakes
* Capturing the pitch
* Measuring the pitch for individuals
* Measuring the pitch for groups
* Coaching the pitch

Dreamforce and a single Pen for an entire year

Dreamforce and a single Pen for an entire year

One Pen : One Year

Single Pen

Dreamforce is on my mind.  The RingLead team is cooking up some interesting (and fun) initiatives for the biggest tech show in the universe.  What will Marc Benioff launch this year?  Every year the industry leadership of Salesforce has stood out.  I’m excited to be going.

What’s with the pen?  First, it is a compact Fisher Space Pen. It is awesome and I have not used another single pen for an entire year.  It was a personal challenge to myself.  I keep it on my keychain and always have it with me.   It writes  upside down and does not stop working like 98% of the pens you typically get from tradeshows.

I just walked around my entire office asking for a bunch of pens (to take a picture) and no one had any from tradeshows.  The sales reps had collected a bunch of them; I knew this.  When asked, it was simple:  “I threw them out Donato.  They stopped working”.

Tradeshows, Dreamforce and advice to vendors:

Dont’ give away crappy cheap, pens

When I get back with a low quality pen that does not work.  Guess what?  I associate that with YOUR company.  I have never had a pen from a trade show last.  Really ask yourself… have you?

We are teaching our children to recycle and not to waste, to have a better world.  I paid around $20 for my space pen and I regularly give them as gifts.  After a year it is more cost effective, process efficient and cutter free way of using a writing instrument.  Think long term, think quality.  My appeal:

It’s doesn’t have to be a space pen, but here is a picture of mine.

spacepenupdate: May 2016:

it’s now been 2.5 years


Trade show tip: Remove fillers from your vocabulary

Trade shows.  You have 10 seconds maximum to engage and get the interest of a passer by.   Time is critical.  Time is everything.

Eliminating filler words such as “Um”,  “Ah”,  “Er” and “You know” is paramount.  It kills your presentation and will cost you the sale.

So you’ve been is sales for years and you think it’s ok?

I’ve got news for you:  When I hear constant “Um, ah, er, eh, you know” in conversation you are stamped as irrelevant.  You are an amatuer.  You’ve had some great sales months, but you are not a great sale rep.   Language and the articulation thereof is the engine that drives sales.  If your communication ability sucks time from my life,  I just don’t have time for you.  I am not alone.

I am being honest with you, right now.  You may be right out of college or have a few sales years under your belt.  Maybe you just never made the effort to improve.  You may think it is ok; your friends may talk this way and reinforce this habit.

If you are thinking this way, you are wrong.  You will never be great in sales without mastering communication. 

The first step to fixing the language filler problem is realizing you have one.  If you have the desire,  this video will help.  Good luck.

When Marketing Lies About Technology

I’m at a talk about marketing at a conference, sitting in the audience, blending into the mix of SEO students and experts. Unlike most conference, I am not speaking, not helping with sales at a booth and not scheduled with back-back meetings.  This is a chance for me to sit and learn.

At the end of a fantastic panel discussion on SEO tools, demand generation and technology, the panel went into the Q&A section of the talk.  One panelist was asked what made her technology better than the next tool.

“We spider the entire Internet, every day. Every site and keyword, everything, so we have more data to work with.”  She said.

Looking around me, I saw eyes wide and heads nodding.  They swallowed it.  What happened next was like an out-of-body experience.

“Buuuuullshit!” I said, just-loud-enough for the group in the small theater to hear.  I just couldn’t help myself.

I was then asked by the moderator to, basically, explain myself.  I proceeded to talk about why “spidering the entire Internet” was not possible.  This is an area that I am a subject matter expert.  I won’t explain it hear, but if Google can’t do it…well, you get the idea…  I then asked if she borrowed Google’s new quantum computer and got a few laughs.   My goal was not to ridicule, but to recover from my sightly louder than expected comment.  Next, I basically said that I was impressed with what their technology did, actually do, but it shouldn’t be misrepresented as “everything on the Internet”.

Her comment was that she was not the “techie person” and that she got over-enthusiastic.  People laughed and that was the end of it.

The point is that Marketing does not need to lie, it would have been just as impressive if she portrayed, accurately, what they actually do and how.  This is a problem in many technology companies.  The process starts very much like a myth or legend.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke

The technologist creates something that looks like magic and Marketing tries to explain it and the legend grows.  Soon, Sales is fabricating any explanation that sounds good and a technology myth is born.

Don’t do this.  Technology, Sales and Marketing need to be on the same page.  If you don’t achieve unified messaging someone else is going to call bullshit and you will lose a sale.


The Art of the Elevator Pitch; “So… what do you do?”

The Art of the Elevator Pitch; “So… what do you do?”

Companies and the minds within them evolve over time. I have experienced it firsthand in founding Broadlook Technologies and steering its growth over the last 6 years. Core competencies change, competitive landscapes change, opportunities come and go and through all this there is your corporate identity and messaging. There is internal messaging, external messaging and…


While internal messaging may be something like “don’t complain about the 150 lbs slobbering behemoth of a dog the CEO brings in with him” (if they do, I bring in her soon to be 200 lb offspring), I am not focusing on that here. Today I am concerned (sometimes, up at night) about external messaging; that which is projected outwards to the marketplace. What brought this to my attention was my wandering around the booths at the recent Onrec conference in Chicago. Innately, I am very curious person; I want to understand. So I made the rounds to each vendor booth and simply asked them.

“So what do you do”?

For the most part, I was horrified with the experience.

Why? It was NOT because what I heard was awful. In fact, many pitches were excellent. I was horrified because it made me question and run to the Broadlook booth. Was my team excellent, or not so excellent?

Let me digress…Understand this is an area of pride for me, Dan Hughes (one of Broadlook’s co-founders) and I rock at the trade shows. People line up to get a peek at our latest solutions. We have well crafted pitches, regardless if we are talking to a recruiter, recruiting manager, sales rep or CEO.

How did my team at Broadlook Technologies do with their pitches?

Mixed results. Some were very good and some were poor. Next step, I called each of my reps that were not attending the show.

“This is Donato, I want you to call my cell phone back ASAP. I won’t pick up my cell phone. Leave me a message as if I was a prospect at a trade show and I asked you.”

“So what do you do?”

Armed with a larger sample size, it was hard for me to accept that Broadlook Technologies was, as it relates to elevator pitches…average. We filled out all sectors of the bell curve. That hurt. The blame was solely mine and I needed to do something about it. Average sucks.

Fast forward. Today Broadlook Technologies rocks the pitch.

How did Broadlook get there?

I did a deep dive into researching elevator pitch. Most of the research, materials and advice I found was related to making a pitch to get financing. In reality, this type of elevator pitch is 2-3 minutes long and is too lengthy for a trade show pitch. I needed techniques for a 20-30 second pitch, not 2-3 minutes.
Most of what I learned is that people have mastered copying each other. Like almost all writing in all industries, industry “experts” are copying 5 of the top 10 something’s from one place or another to build their top 10 list of something else.

I’ve never been good at that.

So it was time for fieldwork. Thus, for those that saw me in October conferences with my camera, I was learning. At the first conference, I was in not helping with the pitches; I recorded them as-is. The camera was cheap, and the audio quality was lack-luster. At the second conference, I had a new Sony HD camera. Video was great but the audio was poor with all the background noise. By the 3rd conference, I added directional microphone. By the 4th conference in October, I learned what made a great pitch and I was able to coach the people I was recording. After the 4th conference, I was confident enough to put together a 60-minute webinar: “The Art of the Elevator Pitch”. It went over very well for the vendors attending the Kennedy conference. In the webinar, I talked about elements of a good pitch as well as how to measure and coach a pitch. Info on measuring and coaching was absolutely void, so I feel I made a break-through contribution. What good is teaching something if you don’t have the tools to measure effectiveness and coach the topic?

This was a fun experience. In total I did about 60 recordings. 38 of the recordings made it into this blog entry. The ones I cut out were either very bad, or the video/audio quality was poor. I am not a videographer, some pitches were fantastic, but my camera skills were not and the end result was unusable. My end goal was to (1) share what I learned about pitches and (2) give the vendors that spent time with me a venue to get them some exposure.

If anyone that I excluded wants to be included, contact me and we can record your pitch via Skype and I will post it on a future blog. I’ll be adding an “elevator pitch” section to my blog, as I intend on continuing my research.

Much of the existing literature on the Internet about elevator pitches included 8-10 points to remember. Trying to remember 8-10 concepts at the same time can be paralyzing. I wanted to bring the whole process down a few, simple, memorable steps that anyone can implement. After my research and fieldwork I can up with a three-step process to build your elevator pitch. Enjoy the videos!

1. Talk about a problem. What is the problem in the market that caused you to create your product or service?

Sales reps spend 30% of their time prospecting. They use the Internet inefficiently. They manually picking through web sites… cutting & pasting contact information. They do this because the leads they are getting are stale and overused.

2. How do you solve that problem? Be concise and clear.

Broadlook provides solutions that harness names, titles, emails, phone numbers and bio’s from the Internet. You choose the sectors or companies to target. The data is fresh. The data is actionable. Think about it: The most powerful list is the one no-one else has. We can help you build that list.

3. What makes you unique? Don’t use generic terms like the “best”, craft a something that truly differentiates you in the market.

Below is a group of the first 30 or so pitches I recorded.  Each video consists of 5-10 pitches.

Tradeshow bound?  Nail your 30 second Elevator Pitch

Tradeshow bound? Nail your 30 second Elevator Pitch


Without coaching or any process, most first-time recorded pitches are simply poor. Without proper training or a plan of attack, first time pitches tend to ramble, are too long, plagued with “uhms” and “ahhs” and are fragmented and not engaging.

You wouldn’t try to build a house without a systematic process to follow. Building a pitch is no different. Luckily, I’ve defined a simple to remember and effective process I call the “Avatar” method. In the online world, an Avatar is a unique virtual character that represents you. Representing your pitch is no different, it needs to stand out, it needs to be unique, it needs to be simple.

Before you do anything, think up your Avatar.  Who are you?

Related imageImage result for tony robbinsImage result for glengarry glen rossImage result for james bondImage result for lara croft tomb raider

Are you the first year sales rep or a confident VP of sales and marketing?  Why is this important?  While coaching people, I have found when people feel they are acting out a role, they become more comfortable.  Messing up in character is less stressful (and more fun) than messing up yourself.  Mind games…possibly, but it works.

Now that you are no longer you,  here is the steps to crafting your pitch:

PitchCrafting: The Simple Method

1. Problem: State the problem or need that exists.

The problem must be stated clearly to build credibility and then transition into solving the problem in the next part of your pitch. This is akin in sales to “pointing out the pain”. Why does your product or service exist?

2. Solution: State how your offering solves that problem.

Here is where you get to shine. Solve that problem. Be clear and concise. What does your company, you, your product or solution do?

3. Uniqueness: State how your offering is unique.

You may have competitors, how do you stand out? This is the part that many people struggle with. The uniqueness does not have to be part of your product, it can be your years of experience, prices, or level of customer service. Be careful NOT to use generic terms here like “best”, “cheapest” or “biggest”. Use quantifiable language.


There are additional elements we can explore in advanced pitch crafting, but for now you have the core elements to craft a first rate elevator pitch. If you are being recorded, here are some advice points to remember. The advice is broken into two sections. Simple and advanced. Simple advice is just that. Simple. Follow the simple advice and you will have dramatically results. The advanced advice is for those that are more comfortable with speaking in front of the camera and really are looking to hone their pitch. The goal here is not to give you too much to think about. If you are new to this concept, stick to the simple advice.

Simple Advice

  1. Think in bullet points. Say it to yourself a few times. “Problem – Solution – Uniqueness. Problem – Solution – Uniqueness.” Don’t try to remember everything at once. If you remember those three words, you will do fine.
  2. Good posture. Stand straight and maintain good posture. Video pitches are, for the most part, head shots, however, good posture projects confidence. Believe it or not good or bad posture can be detected by the viewer from a neck up shot.
  3. Get an “um” ball. If you have a tendency to use filler words like “um” and “ahh” leave them at home. One “um” can remove all confidence projected by your pitch. A simple technique to get rid of the filler words is to hold something soft in your hand that you can squeeze. When you have the urge to use a filler word, replace that with a squeeze of a ball. This is an amazingly simple technique that works. The reason it works is that you are replacing a behavior vs. removing it. Psychologists will tell you that replacing a behavior is much easier than eliminating it. This also works for public speaking!
  4. Don’t apologize. If you screw up, and most people will… keep going until you are done. The pitch is only 30 seconds and it will be good practice to complete it. If you want to immediately start over, do so. DO NOT APOLOGIZE OR MAKE LIGHT OF YOUR ERROR. If you do, this sets tells your brain you have failed. Every mistake is a learning experience and you need to internalize mistakes as a positive thing. Use mistakes to power your humor and passion. The best pitches I have ever seen are from people that messed up, got a big smile on their face…and did it again.

Advanced Advice

  1. Expect great things. You may be talking to one person holding a camera, but the audience is 1000′s. Project as if you are talking to 1000′s, not one.
  2. Project with passion. In advanced pitch training, nearly one quarter of a pitch’s peer-review score is based on projecting passion. If you don’t believe in what you are talking about, it simply won’t work unless you are an incredible actor.
  3. Find your cadence. Strategic short pauses and even silence can have a dramatic effect on the impact of a pitch. This is part of advanced pitch training, not for every person or every pitch. Find what works for you.
  4. Sound conversational. Remember you are talking to people, don’t sound like you are reading to them

The 30 second pitch is a skill that every leader and sales professional and business developer needs to master. It is surprisingly easy if you follow the process.