The best pitches are done under seven minutes

Bambi Francisco Roizen · April 9, 2009 · Short URL:

Charlene Li's advice: Keep it short and don't try to boil the ocean

The best pitches are typically done within five to seven minutes, according to Charlene Li, founder of digital strategies consulting firm Altimeter, and host of VatorNews' show Socialize This. As a former analyst at Forrester and a sought-after consultant in the social media space, Li gets pitched all the time by entrepreneurs seeking advice or coverage.

In this segment, Li offers up advice to entrepreneurs when they pitch to her. 

The first piece of advice is to keep it short. Don't spend 10 minutes explaining social networking to Li. She practically wrote the book on it. I'm not kidding. She was a co-author of Groundswell, a book on social media. "You don't have to convince me that social media is a big deal," she said. The best pitches answer three things in under seven minutes, she said. Those are: 1) What's the problem? 2) How are you going to solve it? 3) How are you going to make money?

Li also cautions entrepreneurs to not work 10 hours a day. If it's more than 40 hours, and pushing 60 hours, she asks, "How can you sustain that?" The people with a good handle on their business are the ones who also have a good handle on their personal life. Also, if an entrepreneur is working that many hours, it's a sign that they're not focused on one problem. The biggest problem Li sees entrepreneurs having is that they have a tendency to want to boil ocean. With that type of problem to solve, it's no wonder they're working long hours.

As for integrating social media into their product or service, Li advises entrepreneurs to make sure they understand what type of relationship they want with their user or what type of relationship they want users to have with one another. Define the relationship and then apply the right technologies, she said. And, not all startups need a social component. While it's good to have one, it's better not to have one than have a social strategy/component that's just tacked on.

(Charlene is also our guest host, evaluating Watercooler, Wetpaint, and Famplosion, on Vator Box. Be sure to watch for those segments!)

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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