The best way to pitch your idea (or business plan, or job application, or screenplay, or anything else) is to make sure you really and truly understand it yourself—it’s definition and scope and size and consequences. And the best way of understanding it and to communicating it to others is to focus very sharply on the creation of three separate pitches at different levels of detail: 5 seconds, 30 seconds, or 5 minutes.

Consultant Scott Berkin explains: “The 5-second version, also known as the elevator pitch, is the most concise single sentence formulation of whatever your idea is. Refine, refine, refine your thinking until you can say something intelligent and interesting in a short sentence… Never allow yourself to believe your thing is so complicated and amazing that it’s impossible to explain in a sentence. If you were to use this excuse on me, I’d tell you it means you don’t have enough perspective on how your idea fits into the world.” And he warns: “If you can’t distill down what you’re doing in 5- and 30-second versions, don’t worry too much about the 5-minute version: odds are you won’t get many people to listen to you for that long.” Feb 2005