How to write an Elevator Pitch
The pitch is the interface between the hobby and the profession
Convention season is on us and you’ve just bumped into that industry professional you have always wanted to meet. You walk up to him with your game in your backpack and a big goofy smile. You exchange pleasantries and then he asks what’s in your backpack. You open your mouth, and then stop. Where do you start? There’s just so much to say! Then, as you try to scrabble to organize your thoughts, he is called off and on his way. You are sure that if you were better organized he would have been very interested in your concept. To break out of the hobby and into the semi-professional, your games each need to be equipped with a pitch.
Telling me about your game is boring.
Sorry to say, but if you just “told him” about your game ad-lib, chances are it will be a hodgepodge, scattergun approach that will take too long because you are so excited and unprepared. He may be very indifferent, lose interest, of even stop you halfway through your explanation. He may think that the next 20 minutes he will need to listen about your game before I can even decide if he likes it or not. These 20 minutes are lost. You would do better to get to the heart of the information as fast as you can. Ideally you would have a snapshot or some kind of movie trailer (with portable projector) for your game to have the good stuff condensed down. This want of a précis (indicative abstract) is exactly the same reason why we look at the back of a box before buying it – to get to the point.
What is the goal of a ‘pitch’?
There are many evolutions and vehicles of a “pitch”; mission statements, public strategy, sales presentations, “Barking”, poster events, executive summaries, etc x 1000, but the one that you need to concentrate on as a boardgame designer is the “Elevator Pitch”. The goal of this is to tell someone enough about your game for them to make a judgement in the shortest amount of time possible. “Yes I will playtest your game, yes I will listen to your full pitch, yes I do think this is a decent concept”, is what you want to hear after a pitch like this. Remember, that if the answer is “no thanks, that is not interesting” or similar, then you will be saving time for yourself and your subject – this is a very good thing and leaves you with more time to speak to others that will have better inclination towards you.
You get one chance, so make it good.
“What if they say No, but I didn’t really have time to get to the best bits?”, then unfortunately, your pitch was bad. This kind of pitch is a concise verbal presentation of your idea that acts to summarize your proposition. The long and the short of this, means “Put the good bits first”, aka “get to the point”.
The anatomy of an Elevator Pitch
- You have thirty seconds to say it all. Traditionally this was the time you had to speak to someone in an elevator ride up to their floor.
- Use clear language. No fancy words, forgo all abbreviations and assume no prior knowledge of your game. Concise.
- Use powerful and visual words. It is ok for this to sound a little bit “salesy”, it needs to demand attention and leave the listener with a strong and visceral image.
- Tell a story. Why does this game exist? What are the steps that brought you here?
- Practice. Yes in front of the mirror. Yes you have to know it off the top of your head. Yes you have to practice in front of friends.
How do you create an Elevator Pitch?
Step 1. Write everything down. Write down a few different ways of explaining your game. Don’t edit yourself at all; just start collecting your ideas. Put in as much long-form, blabbery, stream-of-consciousness stuff as you can here; write it all down in all the ways you can think of. Why does this game exist? How did you make it? What was your goal in making this game? What are your hopes for this game?
Step 2. Leave it for 24 hours. For at least one day, leave all of this information and don’t touch it. You will come back tomorrow with a fresh look on everything. This is ironically one of the most important steps, do not negate this as it will give you an exceptional look into your own game.
Step 3. Revisit and highlight the best stuff. With a highlighter, find the parts that really stand out to you (remember to keep the above list in mind here)
Step 4. Bring it together. This is your chance to start writing the script for your main pitch, using your fresh eyes and your highlighted stuff; you will start drafting the pitch and connecting the best pieces together.
Step 5. Success and practice. Read it aloud to a friend or family member. Read it again to a mirror, if you have the technology and inclination, read it into a Dictaphone or record yourself speaking, this will highlight some very important weaknesses, not limited to the fact that you do not sound anything like James Bond even though you think you do (L).
Write it all and condense it down to 30 seconds. So when someone asks you “Tell me about your game”, you will be properly equipped and prepared.