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Guest post by Alli Blum from Startup Weekend Philadelphia.

The most formal parts of Startup Weekend happen at the beginning, with the pitch, and at the end, with the presentations before the judges.

If you’re going to pitch an idea, here is a guide that will help you think through your idea and structure your pitch. If you plan on joining a team, here is what you can expect to hear on Friday night.

1. Focus on the problem you want to solve :: There are lots of problems out there. And for every problem, there are many solutions. Take something as basic and primal as needing to eat. You can solve the problem by eating food you make at home or food from a Jose Garces restaurant downtown. You can eat a carrot or a double bacon cheeseburger. You can eat in many different ways, but the problem stays the same: you need to eat.

The same is true of startups. The problem you want to solve could have 140 different solutions from each of the 140 participants. Startup Weekend is about talking to other people and about using many ideas to turn them into the best idea for your market.

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2. Mention how you think the problem should be solved :: If you can, try to leave it as bare bones as possible. Try to talk about your idea using the following bare-bones formula:

I want to build a _____ that does _____.

Substitute web site or mobile app in the first blank and the core functionality in the second blank. For example, “I want to build a web site that helps Philly’s foodies keep track of changing menu specials.”

Leave it at that and move on. You only have 60 seconds.

3. Talk about your secret sauce :: We all have one. Take me, I’m a writer. I can write microcopy and know all the words to A/B test to improve signup on a landing page. Take Mel, one of our other PHLSW organizers. She’s a designer and a talented one at that, and could lay out a landing page for stellar signup. Together, we could make magic.

So think about your own skills and passion and why you have a special ability to solve this problem. Are you in medical school and at Startup Weekend to solve a medical problem? Are you in a band and at Startup Weekend to solve a musician’s problem? Do you happen to be very nice?

4. Tell us what you already know :: Maybe you’ve already done your market research. Maybe you even have real market validation from real customers. Maybe you know the market size of your industry or the market cap of your biggest competitor. Maybe there are 8,000,000 monthly searches for your problem.

Show your audience what you’ve already done to validate the problem, the customer, and the idea.

5. Showcase your winning personality :: It’s not about the idea after all, it’s about the team. You have 60 seconds to showcase the best version of yourself. No one wants to work with a jerk.

6. Show up with an idea that does something meaningful :: Think of how you can improve someone’s life for the better. Think big, solve problems that affect large or small groups of people in profound ways. You’re here to change the world, after all, aren’t you?

If you have questions about pitching or coaching at Startup Weekend, or if you want to say hi, email Alli at blum.alli@gmail.com. (Pitching, coaching, batting–we can talk baseball, too.)

Mitchell Cuevas
(@mcuevasm) I am the Sr. Marketing Director here at Techstars, am passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and am obsessed with finding, playing with, and implementing all the best new marketing (and other) technology I can get my hands on.