This post was written by Charlene Chiu, an intern and alum of The Spike Lab. It is a thought piece based on the carefully crafted curriculum by our top coaches.
We previously explained how to craft a pitch. In this blog post, we’ll show you two example pitches and explain what works (and what doesn’t), using the guidelines we introduced in the first article of this two-part series. These examples have been inspired by the Spike projects done by our amazing students. Note that these examples are formatted as 30-second elevator pitches, but you can use the same guidelines to structure pitches of any length. These example pitches were written by Larry, a coach at The Spike Lab.
Let’s take a look at this first example:
“My name is Michael, and my father is a famous cardiovascular surgeon. His example has inspired me since I was very young. My mother, grandparents, and two uncles are also doctors, so you could say I have medicine in my blood. My dream of becoming a doctor is why I want to create an internship program that matches students with local medical opportunities. This way, these students can get real hands-on experience with the medical profession, which will improve their chances of getting into a good college and also help them decide on medicine as a future career. There are so many high schoolers who want to enter the medical field, but they don’t know whether or not they truly want to study medicine. They might give it a try in college but then abandon it not long after. This is such a waste of some of the most precious years of a person’s life.”
Were you excited by the pitch? No? Here’s why: it doesn’t follow the “problem, pathway, hero” structure. Instead, Michael flips it into “hero, pathway, problem”. When you ask for someone’s attention, you’re already on borrowed time. You want to dive right in and hook their attention. Introducing yourself and your family won’t do that (unless you’re some top-notch celebrity, then, good for you). Your audience doesn’t know what exactly you’re talking about until they are four sentences in, and by then, you’ve lost their attention. The lack of imaginative and exciting language further exacerbates the situation. By leaving the problem(s) until the very end of the pitch, your audience won’t know why they should care about what you’re saying. And when you do get there, they’re thinking of what to eat for dinner.
Here’s an example of what you should do:
“Middle school is such a challenging time. Judgment is everywhere: your clothes, your friends, your grades, your activities; everyone is trying to fit in. Now imagine you use a wheelchair every day. You can’t even dress yourself in the morning, and the clothes that you own were designed for someone standing up and never quite fit right because you spend all day sitting. What if there was a way for these young wheelchair users to feel comfortable yet stylish in clothes that are not only tailored for a sitting posture but designed to be put on and taken off without the need to stand up? My name is Peter, and I love fashion. Although I personally do not use a wheelchair, my mom and 12-year-old cousin do. After that horrific car accident that took the use of their legs, I’ve been on a mission to help them and others like them feel a little more comfortable and a little more confident.”
From the first sentence, Peter has already tugged on your emotions. Remember middle school? The judgment you felt about everything? He thrusts you into the daunting situation of using a wheelchair in middle school every day while trying to fit in. The difficulties of dressing stylishly in clothes that fit right. Then, he offers the lifeline: a way for young wheelchair users to feel comfortable and stylish in clothes tailored for a sitting posture and designed to be worn without the need to stand up. Problem: check. Pathway: check. Finally, he introduces himself and explains why he is uniquely situated to solve this: his mom and cousin are both wheelchair users. Hero: check. By following “problem, pathway, hero” and using engaging language, Peter gains the audience’s attention and holds it for the entire duration of the pitch. He navigates the problem with his solution during “pathway” and reveals his personal connection to the problem and in “hero”, why he’s the best fit for the job.
Now that you’ve seen a couple of examples of what makes an enticing pitch, we invite aspiring teen innovators and entrepreneurs to craft their own. What’s your next Spike project going to be about?