What I learned pitching 300+ times in 4 days

Posted on March 17, 2011 by admin

I went to SXSW to learn and to network for my startup Swayable. Prior to going I decided I needed to have a giveaway of some sort that was an easy conversation starter so I could start conversations and practice pitching Swayable to random people vs. having to just cold start conversations with a smile and business card (lets face it, no one is interested in talking to you randomly if you just have a business card to give them.)

So I created 2 giveaways, I bought iPhone charger cables in bulk on eBay and then bought bulk screen wipes and put all of these in tiny bags with labels I made that had both my web and iPhone App link and QR code representing both.

My goals were:

  • To talk to as many people as I could about Swayable;
  • Get comfortable pitching;
  • Learn how to pitch quickly to engage someone;
  • Exit gracefully if a person wasn’t interested.

I looked at everyone at SXSW as potential customers and here’s what I learned.

Day 1:

  • I learned that it’s awkward as hell to walk up to random strangers and pitch a product – thank goodness for my giveaways!
  • I learned marketing language translates really poorly into pitching. People don’t connect with it and automatically are closed off.
  • I learned very quickly that I struggled with a graceful exit if it was clear that someone didn’t’ connect with Swayable.

Day 2:

  • I learned to ask for feedback. I would ask some people that I had a good conversation with. “How was my pitch, how would you pitch Swayable
  • I tried a variety of pitches and started to see what connected better based on the feedback I got simply from asking for feedback.
  • At Meetups – I learned to listen first find out what the person was working on then when I pitched I’d customize it a bit to their industry/service.

Day 3:

  • I learned that it’s perfectly ok that not everyone is going to “get it” and how to stop over talking and gracefully exit.
  • I started pitching everywhere- Starbucks, Fed Ex Kinkos, out at the bars in lines (because SXSW has lines everywhere),  in shuttles, and I actually pitched a couple of times in the pedi cabs next to other pedi cab passengers.
  • I continued asking how to pitch better.
  • I felt much more comfortable with the awkwardness of random pitching.
  • I learned that women got my product much more than men. Validating that my target audience is definitely going more female than male.

Day 4:

  • I learned that telling people I am the founder of the company actually helped a ton with credibility.
  • I learned that telling people to actually try the product and send me feedback directly actually made people want to help!
  • I learned that in 1 sentence I could tell if someone gets it or not. (note: day 1 it took me 3-4 fumbling sentences to get there)
  • I am comfortable pitching in a wide variety of situations and can read people well if they get it or not.
  • I can exit much more gracefully in the moments when someone does not click withSwayable.
  • I learned that overall about 70% of the people I talked to “got” Swayable, likedSwayable. The other 30% will likely not be users and that is perfectly ok.
  • I learned that it is possible to get to a point where you are so exhausted you don’t want to talk anymore and you still have 20 more give aways to hand out ;)

One of the things I found odd is that not once did someone pitch me. I wasn’t stopped anywhere or given anything more than flyers handed out by tightly clothed women. No one else took the time to talk to me about there products or services outside of proper meet ups and networking events.  I fully expected all sorts of startups to be pitching in creative ways, connecting, talking, meeting etc. I must have missed those locations but I was definitely looking for others doing the same thing ;)

I’m not sure if what I did will help with the growth of Swayable. However, I feel great knowing that I am much more comfortable pitching and connecting with people aboutSwayable. I met some amazing people, learned a ton and will definitely be back next year at SXSW.

And if you’ve just read this full article…

Check out Swayable… in action, right here embeded on my blog (yes, you can embed any swayable on your site too ;) )

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