Telling Your Story in 60 Seconds: How Startups Can Perfect Their One-minute Pitch

Much has been written about the substance and content of a perfect pitch.

Templates and guidelines can help an entrepreneur craft a careful summary of her business but these don’t cover the importance of the actual expression of the  delivery. As it turns out, the medium can be more important than the message of a pitch since the way in which you present yourself and your business can have a huge impact on how it is received.  

“Your body language is a nonverbal communication with your audience,” says Dr. Ying Zhu, an Assistant Professor in Marketing at UBC Okanagan Campus who specializes in behavioural research. “Human communication consists of 93 percent body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves.”

In late June, a dozen technology companies competed onstage in Kelowna at Metabridge’s One Minute Pitch Competition. Their efforts highlighted a few considerations, beyond just content, that tech entrepreneurs should embrace when they have 60 seconds to win over an audience.




If you plan to jump onstage to the beat of a 70s rock classic, make sure the music fits your message.  “In a one minute pitch, music can be a distraction rather than an attraction,” according to Dr. Zhu. “Appropriately structured music acts on the nervous system like a key on a lock, activating brain processes with corresponding emotional reactions.”  

If you are pitching a sports product or an energy drink, loud music can set the mood for your viewers. Otherwise, you might want to skip the loud beats.


Peter Matejcek, CEO of HuStream Video, was the first competitor onstage at Metabridge. Later, at the finale party, Matejcek was congenially referred to as “the towel guy” because he happened to present his company’s message wearing significantly less than his competitors.  

“Sometimes you need to have fun as well as stand out in the crowd,” says Matejcek, who wore only a towel during his pitch. “Engagement is about being remembered and hopefully getting some form of information into people’s minds.

Mode of dress has a huge impact on your audience, though, and Dr. Zhu recommends to “try to dress close to the stereotype that matches your business, so it will be easier for your audience to make a connection with you. There is a possibility to attract audience attention by dressing differently, but you have to bear the potential risk.”

If you’re not as brave as Matejcek (and few of us are), consider a clean white shirt and a streamlined outfit that helps you stand out onstage without distracting from your message.


A strong speaking voice is extremely important. Know how to speak into a microphone in a way that is neither too loud nor too soft.

Take a “Goldilocks” approach to speaking:  a quiet voice can imply low confidence and minimal passion while a loud one can scare or intimidate your audience. There is actually a “just right” volume for your pitch and it is worth it to practice until you find it. The best presentation speaking voice is easy and confident while also being highly believable.


Your mother was right:  smile!  “Audiences tend to react more positively to a smiling presenter.” However, according to Dr. Zhu, “a fake smile can backfire. Make sure your smile is heartfelt and a genuine.”

Katrina German, Co-Founder of OneStory, a video storytelling app, smiled throughout her Metabridge pitch because “When you believe in something, you shine. If your product inspires you, it will inspire others.”  


According to research, a 100 millisecond exposure to a face is sufficient to judge likeability. Dr. Zhu suggests that “you need to grab your audience in the first 10 seconds or you may completely lose them.”

When James Clift, CEO of KarmaHire, took the stage he smiled at the audience and launched right away into a great story. “A year ago, I lost my job and my girlfriend at the same time. Finding another girlfriend was relatively easy compared to finding another job.” His engagement with the audience was the perfect connection to launch into his pitch about job recruitment software.


If you are going to pitch or present your business, videotape yourself. Are you speaking clearly? Do you fidget on stage? Are you always looking at your speaking notes or do you make eye contact with your audience? Review your own delivery and work to correct these common mistakes.

Remember that your business model and message are a strong part of your pitch, but your delivery will leave the greatest and most lasting impression.