Going up

There are lots of sweaty palms and dry throats in the room. For the courageous, there is also the opportunity to pitch a business idea to a panel of investment pros, a roomful of their peers, and potential investors and service providers looking for a home run.

The venue is the MIT Enterprise Forum’s “elevator pitch” program, the best-attended of the group’s schedule of programs. The format is simple: 10 business owners looking for investment capital each delivers a 60-second “elevator pitch,” then get critiqued by a panel of investment experts.

The criticisms are kind but direct, designed to help business owners hone their pitches to make them appealing to a potential investor or to a contact who might lead to one.

The businesses presenting vary widely, from a company that provides wireless mobile communications equipment for mines and skyscrapers to one that produces a product that can allow plastics to conduct electricity. Those two are deemed the best and most interesting, and are asked to make a second presentation that will expand on their business and its potential.

But despite the variety of concepts, comments regarding the elevator pitches touched repeatedly on a few major points. A good elevator pitch, it seems, should be lots of sizzle and a little steak. Emphasize the technology too much, and you risk losing the well-heeled, yet technically unsophisticated.

And make certain that it’s clear how — and how fast — the business is going to make money.

Some of the other points made by panelists:

* Where will you be competing, and what is the potential? Investors are attracted to deals that have the potential to exploit large markets. “Try to qualify the size of the market,” says Jay Katarincic, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures and a principal in Lycos Ventures.

* Refine and internalize the pitch so that you can deliver it smoothly. “You’ve got to be fluid and spontaneous,” says Mel Pirchesky, principal of Eagle Ventures and a dealmaker who has raised $40 million in equity from high-net-worth individuals.

* Sell yourself and the commitment and passion you have for the business. “In these deals, it’s always about the jockey, not the technology,” says Katarincic.

* Grab your audience’s attention quickly. Says Katarincic: “Set the hook and reel us in later.” How to reach: MIT Enterprise Forum, (412) 915-2631