Category: Communication

“‘Me, Me, Me’ equals ‘Less, Less, Less'” – Fred Hess

In pitching as well as marketing, the message has to be oriented to the audience and to what they are interested in hearing about.  We have all seen Rock Star CEO’s whose companies are an extension of their personalities and while that could be good during that CEO’s tenure, even for those large companies, it is not sustainable over the long run.

In fact, in Jim Collin’s book “Good To Great”, he develops his idea of Level 5 Leadership  in which the CEO channels her identity and ego into the success of the company.  This is proven by the fact that the CEO’s of several of the Great companies are people we have never heard of before.

For startups, this is ever more important.  The experience of the team is supreme but not for the hype of the personalities. It’s more for the experience of navigating through the minefield that every startup faces.

Which takes us back to messaging.  Your pitch has to be about communicating the value you provide to a large and growing market and how you can provide a return to your investors.  You marketing message has to be about communicating that value to your customer.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Flattery is telling the other person precisely what he thinks of himself. ” – Dale Carnegie

The key to a successful conversation is to get the other person to reveal enough about themselves so you can tell them an interesting story.  The key to telling a good story is to engage your audience in away that relates to their experience.

Know thy audience!

Don’t give a technical presentation to a group of investors.  They are interested in markets, value propositions, and how they can make money.  They don’t care as much about the engineering.  You would’t want to give a funding pitch to a group of customers.  They are interested in solving their problems, not how big the market is.

When you are at a networking event and meet someone new, the first thing out of your mouth should be, “tell me about what you do.”  Then your elevator pitch can be instantly customized to what your one-person audience really wants to hear.

Entrepreneurial Flattery!

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” – Spanish Proverb

I was listening to a news report on the radio yesterday.  The interviewer asked a tough question of a Marine General, which was followed by about 6 seconds of silence.  Although 6 seconds is not a long time, the interviewer found the silence so excruciating that she had to finally say “…OoooKaaaay….”

Silence is a very powerful thing and yet we seem utterly terrified of it, which is why we live in a world with a constant drone of noise.

This finds it’s way into our company pitches, elevator pitches, company tag lines and branding.  In all these things, less is always more.  I’ve coached enough company pitches now to know that 8 minutes is a better time constraint than 12 minutes.  The lesser time forces you to really think about the most important things to say and leave it at that.  Of course this takes time and a lot of practice.  This is the way with excellence.

As for story telling, slow down and relax.  And if you really want to grab the audience’s attention, pause your narrative for about 6 seconds. Do it deliberately and look at them in the eyes.  The tension will grow until it’s brittle and bound to break.  When you break it, make sure it’s profound…

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“It’s a nice name. You should keep it.” – Dr. Who

I have been working with a couple clients on branding lately.  Sometimes a great name just comes.  But often, its a challenge choosing a name that is descriptive but catchy, or “sciency” without sounding incomprehensible.

A good tag line can help by adding just the right description to a cool sounding name.

It’s good to get help.  A good graphic designer has a process to understand what you do and get to what you want.  Their process will force you to describe your product or service to a complete novice and that in itself is a very valuable exercise.  They will know how to combine colors and shapes in a good visual icon.

Your name is the utmost elevator pitch.  It says in one or two words everything there is to say about you and it’s the picture of who you are that people will take with them.  Be deliberate about choosing your brand and make sure you try it on others who care.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Eschew Obfuscation” – Unknown

Everything you do should communicate clearly.  Everything your company does should communicate clearly.  Everything about your product or service should communicate clearly. Here’s a partial list:

  • Value Proposition
  • Mission Statement
  • Company Values
  • Culture
  • Funding Pitch
  • Market Segment
  • Product Features
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Financials
  • Core Ideology

Your job as CEO is more to communicate than to educate.  This means meeting your audience on their terms, not yours.

This takes a lot of work and practice.  It takes a lot of feedback from others.  It takes followup and it takes repetition.  It takes a lot of one-on-one time.

And the biggest part of communication is listening.  Ask your stakeholders what they think and then shut up! Keep asking until you’re sure you understand.  Keep honing the message until you;re sure they understand.