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Explain your challenge and garner support for your solution


A 2-3 minute elevator pitch is a key part of any teams seeking to make an impact. If your team can communicate your challenge, insights from user research, and ways your solution addresses those insight, you will go a long way in building support for your idea. A good pitch can bring connections and resources that your team didn’t even know about and build momentum within your team to push your impact even further.

The following tips are adapted from a workshop lead by DFA’s very own SwipeSense team.

Effective ways to do this include:

  1. Know the idea or series of interrelated ideas that your team will be presenting.
    • If you haven’t prototyped yet, present your user research and initial ideas. See Concept Selection for tips on selecting ideas that flow from your research.
  2. Pick a team name!
    • Don’t worry about time picking the perfect name just yet. Run a brainstorm (namestorm) to quickly give your idea a catchy name.
  3. Build a 1 sentence description - “We are X for Y that does Z.”
    • X is the bare essentials of the idea, Y is the group of users who will benefit from the solution and Z is the impact that we’d like to create.
    • Another format of finding out the X,Y and Z is answering the following questions:
      • What do we do? (X)
      • Who do we do it for? (Y)
      • Why are we doing it? (Z)
      • Example: SwipeSense is a hand hygiene system for doctors and nurses to lower hospital acquired infections in hospitals.
  4. Expand on your sentence to build the 2-3 minute pitch:
    • You should already be prepared to build this out since you have been working on the three questions referenced above.
    • State the Problem (~45 seconds):
      • Paint the picture of the challenge you’re addressing. What is a wrong that needs to be righted?
      • Add “Slap Stats”- statistics that are so shocking and persuasive they seem to slap you in the face when you encounter them.
      • Use a personal story from an individual facing the challenge you are addressing.
    • State the Solution (~45 seconds):
      • Insert the one-liner and describe a few details.
      • A basic outline of how the solution works leaves the audience curious to find out more.
      • Share how a user would use the idea.
      • Don’t get too technical.
    • State the Impact (~45 seconds):
      • Paint a picture of a world in which the idea is wildly successful.
      • Referencing the slap stat/story in the beginning of the pitch to connect your solution to the challenge.
      • Leave the audience thinking “I want to help you get there.”
      • Have an ask for the audience to let them know how to support you and your team: Mentorship, resources, feedback, connections, etc.
    • Ending on the ask will give people something tangible that they can do right now to help you.
  5. Prepare visuals
    • Use your real prototypes in the pitch.
    • If you use slides, have pictures and diagrams. Avoid text-heavy slides.
  6. Practice your pitch
    • Roommates or friends can be great for practicing your pitch.
    • Ask what is confusing.
    • See what questions come up that could be quickly addressed.
  7. Present to your studio, partners, and mentors!
    • Thank people for their feedback.
    • See "Applying Feedback" for making next steps after your pitch.
  8. Follow up with people who offered to support your team.
    • Follow up within 1 day so your team is still on their mind.

Network Best Practices

Tell the story of your solution in a video like the Jerry the Bear team!

Sometimes, low fidelity video of your pitch can be a final product for a competition. In 2009, the founding students of Design for America submitted their video pitch to the DiabetesMine™ Design Challenge Entry to improve life of those with diabetes. Check out their pitch video that won them the “Most Creative Winner” prize!

Visualize your design in a poster and a 1-pager like DFA UofI

In 2014, DFA UofI’s improving the driving experience for people with epilepsy team devised their solution, ResponSense, to empower users, drivers with epilepsy, by notifying them and their family in case of an incident. For their final expo, the team created a poster that included the components of their design and an overview of the problem. Along with the poster, the team created a 1-pager with a condense information of the poster to hand out to the audience. Check out their poster here!

Share your work at a local campus pitch competition like DFA Duke

In 2014, DFA Duke teams entered the ChangeWorks competition to share their work and build local support. The team, Dentigo, presented their research and idea in their video. The team managed to reach the final round and competed with 3 other social entrepreneurship teams for a $5,000 prize!

Problem Clarity
What can we clarify to explain the challenge we are tackling?

Solution Relevance
Given where our solution is currently at, how can we better tie our proposed solution that the challenge we defined at the beginning of the pitch?

How can we change our call-to-action to better support our project?

Project Progress
Is there anything else we need to do as a team before our call-to-action makes sense?

Presentation Clarity
Overall, what would you add or remove to our pitch to make it more pertinent?

Graphic Design
What (if any) visuals, stories, or props would you suggest that could improve our pitch?