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8 ways to deliver a winning elevator pitch

Elevator Pitch Tips
Patti Stirk, a York entrepreneur and Elevator Pitch Competition judge, listens to York College students pitch their next big business idea.

Maybe you lay awake at night dreaming of the next big business idea or you tinker with technology to help make someone's life easier. Or maybe you just can't stop binge-watching ABC's hit show Shark Tank.

If you can identify with any of those scenarios, it's time to share your idea during the York College of Pennsylvania Elevator Pitch Competition. This year’s event, set for April 27 and sponsored by the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship and the Graham School of Business, gives York College students of all majors the opportunity to pitch their ideas for a chance at winning $1,000 and a spot in the J.D. Brown Center’s business incubator.

“The college years are a great time to be trying out new venture ideas,” says Jeff Vermeulen, Executive Director of the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. “This event is about helping students who have business ideas and an interest in entrepreneurship. We want to get them on a path toward creating a job doing something they love.”

Sometimes students don't consider starting their own business as a viable career option, but it can be one of the most rewarding career paths, says Dr. James Norrie, Associate Dean of the Graham School of Business.

“I have personally been involved with students who succeed on this path and it is exciting to see,” he says. “This kind of competition offers the first step for students to ‘try and buy’ their idea with experienced judges as a first step on their own entrepreneurial journey."

Think you have an idea worthy of the prize? Make sure you share it with us by April 18. While you get ready, here are some tips from some previous Elevator Pitch Competition judges and area business leaders.

1. Know who you’re pitching to

“Pick a judge and cater the pitch to them. In real life, you’re going to pitch to one judge. Do some preparation as to who they are and customize it to them. Research the heck out of them and make them love you.”

- Kyle Reid, Founder and CEO of Pro Angler and speaker for the April 27 Henry D. Schmidt Lecture Series

2. Be confident

“If you slip up while presenting, don't dwell on it or make it obvious. Stay professional and stick to your pitch as best as you can.”

- Alyssa McDevitt, Computer Science major and founder of NoiseHub, the winning idea of the 2015 Elevator Pitch Competition

3. Be honest

“Being a bit nervous is fine, not having a command of your material is not. Be prepared for any all types of questions and if you don’t know the answer to something, just be honest and say so.”

- Dale Carey, founder and CEO of Eco-Site and a previous Elevator Pitch Judge

4. Learn from the criticism

“Don't let negative criticism discourage you. As you tell more people about your idea, you will find people who point out flaws, tell you someone else is doing something similar or that your idea isn't all that great. Keep these people with you. More often than not, people will tell you your idea is the next best thing and you will be the next Mark Zuckerberg but that isn't helpful at all. What's helpful is having people look at your product from a different perspective and using their negative criticism to refine your idea.”

- Kyle Musco, Computer Science major, 2013 Elevator Pitch winner and co-founder of Moena LLC with Andrew Komar.

5. Know your weaknesses

“Come up with a good plan of what you want to discuss. Only talk about the positives of your idea, but research the possible negatives and how you plan to handle them in case judges ask about them. Practice your flow multiple times until you can remember how you transition to each topic. Notecards can help, but try to avoid them if you find yourself relying on them too much.”

- Alyssa McDevitt

6. Practice makes perfect

“You need time with it. Time to practice it so you know it inside out with the ability to ring it off in any situation no matter how you are feeling or who you are saying it to. This only comes with giving it time.”

- Kyle Reid

7. Get to the point

“Make it fast. And be confident in 100 percent of the presentation. You're not guessing. YOU KNOW for a fact and have to convince me FAST!”

- Patti Stirk, Elevator Pitch Competition judge and founder of Small Start Art House in downtown York.

8. Be confident, not cocky

“Be open to constructive criticism and pushback to your business plan objectives. If you come across as belligerent or stubborn you will be labeled as difficult, which is one of the quickest and surest ways to not get funded.”

- Dale Carey