Lightning Pitches: A SciComm Challenge

Our guest blogger is Christopher J. Fisher, PhD, Founder & Principal of Multivalent Communications, based in Boston. Find out more about Christopher on LinkedIn.

⚡Lightning⚡ pitches are an incredible #SciComm challenge. But they are super essential to finding funding and an audience for your start-up. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to watch a great collection of 2-minute start-up pitches, thanks to LaunchBio Inc.’s Investor Connect event hosted by SciShield here in Boston.

In addition to great talks, the investor panel (including Sergine Brutus Sweeney, PhD, Katie Segien, and David Prim, PhD) offered a lot of great food for thought to the speakers and audience.

To celebrate this awesome event, I wanted to share some quick tips for maximizing the impact of your lightning pitch!

⏱️ Respect the Time Limit:
I know there’s so much important information to talk about, but you can’t include it all. Once you know how much time you’ll have, practice your pitch until you’re 1000% confident you can deliver it in the time allotted. As David indicated, you’re not going to get funded from a short pitch, but they are critical for opening doors (or keeping them from closing). That means you have to be really thoughtful about what is most important to share. As a guide, “give enough information to make people interested,” says David.

🚩 The Problem, the 🛠️ Solution, and the 😎 Differentiation:
According to Katie, a short pitch must at least cover the problem, the solution, and the differentiation of your offering. Make sure it’s clear to everyone what key gaps you are targeting, how your start-up fills them, and how your approach is unique and better than what’s out there.

💸 The Ask:
In addition, Sergine recommended that you ”know what the ask is” and include it in your talk. Landing on your ask is an involved process, but you really want to make sure to include it upfront. It’s a key aspect of the investor calculation, so don’t bury it or force them to follow up. Being forthright goes a long way.

📈 The Inflection Point:
Complementary to the ask, both Sergine and David emphasized that you need to be sure to answer, “What is the inflection point you are funding?” Investors need to know your plan, but also how that funding will increase the value of your company. This is a must-have, even if you have only a few minutes.

🔢 The Value of Quick Numbers:
In a lightning pitch, you don’t have the luxury of walking through all your awesome data (bummer!) But, as scientists, we do still love a good number! If you can, include one or two impactful data points from your work. In particular, Will (Yangxiaolu) Cao, Ph.D. of Pando Bioscience (YC W23), did a GREAT job of capturing attention in her talk, in part by judicially sharing some impressive numbers.

Obviously, there’s a lot more you can consider for your lightning pitch, but this represents a great place to start! If you’re looking for help or feedback on your pitch, reach out to me.


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