Trapped in an elevator.
Today, for the first time I went to a social event here in Berlin for entrepreneurs. After the lamentations that I’d been exposed to by the locals, I can say that I was pleasantly impressed. The group seemed decent — a mix of coders and business folk and some in between.
One thing was painfully obvious. I’m a whole lot worse at explaining what we’re doing than I thought I would be. Most folks could layout the basics of what they were doing in a few seconds. I stumbled over it even when rambling at length. I’m too used to giving presentations, where I’ve got an audience and an hour.
The first time that we presented our ideas we over simplified. We’re working on some fairly hard problems and we didn’t manage to convince them that we both had something compelling and the skills to pull it off.
This time I went too far in the other direction. I blabbed too much about my background (more than probably anyone cared, and likely to the point of seeming arrogant) and in spoken form, still struggled with outlining what it is exactly that we’re doing.
A good “elevator pitch” is harder than it seems. For us we’ve got to:
- Show how what we’re doing is interesting.
- For the non-computer scientists, point out that it’s non-trivial (i.e. hard to duplicate).
- For computer scientists, convince them that we’re skilled enough to pull it off.
- Briefly explain how we plan to monetize it.
- Boil that down to about a minute.
The crux of the difficulty, perhaps, lies between points two and three. Â For non-technical folk, what we’re doing seems easy. Â For technical folk, it seems very hard.
I’ve got another shot at this at the Open Coffee meeting on Friday. Hopefully by then I’ll have managed to get a little closer to something compelling. I’d like to have a clear message that we’re able to present by the time that we go for a public beta in the near future.
Crafting a good 30 second explanation can take months to perfect. I think it’s the natural extension of the “law” coined by Woodrow Wilson almost a hundred years ago:
While he was President, one of his Cabinet members praised his short speeches and asked how long it took to prepare them. “It depends,” Wilson told him. “If I am to speak 10 minutes, I need a week for preparation; if 15 minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days, if an hour, I am ready now.”June 15, 2008, 3:37 pm
(from http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/speeches/mueller052605.htm )