Pitch mistakes Harvard MBAs make

Hosts Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, Daymond John and Kevin O'Leary of 'Shark Tank' speak onstage during the ABC portion of the 2013 Winter TCA Tour at Langham Hotel on January 10, 2013 in Pasadena, Calif.

The reality show "Shark Tank" brings pitching startup businesses to prime time. If you’ve ever watched the show, you know that each entrepreneur gets a chance to pitch their product to a panel of potential funders and judges. Some struggle to seal the deal while others receive funding and investment offers from multiple judges.

Jules Pieri, the founder and CEO of the product launch platform "The Grommet" heads to Harvard Business School twice a month to listen to startup pitches from students. In a recent Quartz article, she says that when a pitch for a product or company is a failure, it's not always because the product isn't good enough. Instead, it usually comes down to the strength of pitch itself. Pieri says that the most fatal flaw of more than 90 percent of the pitches she has witnessed are from students who "bury the lede" and take too long to get to the main point.

Who has done it well? Pieri says that using analogies in your pitch can be useful to resonate and connect with your audience, "We launched a company called Rent the Runway. Their pitch was, it’s Netflix for evening dresses. There’s nobody that can’t understand that."

Even if you are not an entrepreneur, mastering a good pitch can help your career. Pieri says that you should learn how to pitch yourself and your experience with confidence during job interviews, "You don’t need a personality transplant. So don’t feel like you have to be somebody else but it’s really important to be able to describe your (job) transitions well. You always want to seem like you were heading towards something and not away from something."

At the end of our interview with Pieri, we decided to put her skills to the test by asking her how she'd pitch Marketplace.  

"You're a busy person and yet you need to stay current… and this will be your seven minute dose to make sure you always stay on the cutting edge."

 We think she nailed it.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter and substitute host for Marketplace, based in New York.

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