Last year, I had the amazing privilege be a judge for the Social Innovation Fast Pitch at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. It was pretty great--over the course of an hour, representatives of 10 different social impact organizations had three minutes to pitch an audience of several hundred people on their work. The winner would get a grant of $15,000. It was like a start-up pitch fest for social impact organizations.
At the end of the pitches, the judges (there were five of us) retired to the Deliberation Chamber to determine the winner. All the pitches had been strong--they all told stories about their impact and they all showcased innovative ideas. But two pitches immediately emerged as the top contenders. Here’s what set them apart:
- Authenticity: The moment the presenters took the stage, they connected with the audience. Their genuine connection to their work, their words and their need shone through every word and gesture. All of the work they no doubt put in to develop the pitch and work on their delivery was invisible. They simply showed up as people sharing their passion and inviting a group of other people to become part of their work.
- Humor: Both presenters used humor in a natural, engaging way. Instead of jokes, they allowed moments, some unintentional, to arise. And allowed the listeners to enjoy those moments along with them. The temptation, particularly in a high pressure timed situation, is to steamroll over moments in a rush to the finish. But at the end of the day--or the three minutes--sharing a smile with an audience is worth the extra seconds.
- Clarity: These pitches were clear. The stories were clear. The language, clear. And the business proposition, also clear. By the end of three minutes, we knew exactly what these leaders needed and why. In very different ways, they used both specific stories with data, balancing an appeal to the heart while satisfying the curiosity of the brain.
They put in the hours so that, on the night, they could take a deep breath, forget all the work, and simply connect. That connection, just as much as the ideas themselves, made their pitches remarkable.