Here’s a montage of clips from MIT’s annual “Elevator Pitch” $100K Entrepreneurship competition. In this contest, students are given 60 seconds to pitch a business idea to a panel of judges. The best pitch gets $100,000 to start the business. In order to move on to the next round, competitors must convince the judges that their ideas are profitable and practical. But they also need to show the importance of their innovation: why it matters and how it addresses a problem that is important to the judges.
Watch both clips and pay close attention to the analysis of them, given by one of the judges on a public radio program.
Both contestants begin by emphasizing problems that matter to many people—impotence and global pollution. The contestants motivate the judges to listen by promising a way to avoid important, even scary, problems that matter to them.
If you see why the MIT contestants begin by addressing a problem for their audience, you already understand something essential about writing: Effective writers motivate their arguments by alerting their readers to a problem and then offering the possibility of a solution.