Category: Story Telling

“The best speakers know enough to be scared… the only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in formation.” – Edward R. Murrow

…and the only way to train the butterflies is to practice, a lot!

One thing I’ve learned about great jazz improvisors is that even though they are playing “in the moment” and it sounds like they are creating their music spontaneously, it only comes after many, many hours of practice where you develop your ear and your toolbox of technique.

Great pitches rarely happen in the moment.  The second time you give your pitch is better than the first.  So on for the tenth and the twentieth time.

Find opportunities to practice for others.  The more you do that, the more like you are to knock them out when it really counts!

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Good performance is about what you take in, not what you put out.” – Livingston Taylor

Two things are relevant to this quote:

First, customer discovery – Talking to customers about their problems is about listening, not talking.  It’s tempting to share your bright idea for a new product but as soon as you do, you change the conversation and you won’t get all the information you need.

The other thing is pitching.  If you are raising money, you will pitch at least a couple dozen times.  It’s easy to memorize the slides and give the same speech every time.  But you need to be aware of how your audience responds to each point you make.  Did they laugh at the opening joke or not?  Are you getting head nods when you describe your technology?  Do they ask questions about the business model?  If you are not getting a reaction, then you need to work on the slides or the narrative or the delivery…or all three

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Nothing looks better on a human being than self acceptance.” – Livingston Taylor

People can tell when someone is talking about their job and when they are talking about their life.  This is the challenge of acting; to convince the audience that you really are the person in the story.  Another saying is you can’t sing the blues unless you’ve felt some pain.  It all goes to authenticity.

For entrepreneurs, pitching the company is an ongoing activity.  You are always selling your company to investors, to customers, to partners, to advisors.  All these people can tell if it’s your job or your life.  Don’t be afraid to let your passion show.  It reveals authenticity which is a better story to listen to than hearing a story of someone else from a script.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Trust me, no one will ever complain if you delete a few PowerPoint slides from your presentation and tell a story instead.” – Annette Simmons

Somewhere along the way, PowerPoint got declared the standard in business communication.  It a powerful tool but it is still a pretty small box.  PowerPoint dictates how you tell your story if you let it.  Boring templates with bulleted text in one or two columns and colorful bar charts.  Then, to snazzy it up, you can add noises and swoops and checkerboard fade ins.

Somewhere, your listener indicates they are no longer listening.

But if there is a compelling story, one that they will personally relate to; one they have not heard before, one you are passionate in the sharing… that is memorable.  If nothing else, they will remember you.

Put your pitch together without slides.  Then decide if a handful of slides would help the message.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you….” – William Bernbach

The quote goes on, almost like a poem really:

“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you,

and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying,

and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you,

and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting,

and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

 

Whatever you do, learn to tell a good story.  The truth depends on it!

 

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Experience makes liars of us all.” – Dr. Who

Having accomplished some great goal, we all tend to look back and find out things about the journey:

  • It’s usually harder than we thought
  • We ran into problems we didn’t anticipate
  • It cost more money than we planned
  • People we respect and admire may have gotten hurt in the process
  • There are mean people out there
  • (Fill in your own blank)

So when you are pitching your company, there is no way you can know what will happen in the next 6 months, let alone 2 to 3 years.  Your pitch today will not be what it is a year from now.  You will pivot – perhaps several times as you learn more about the market you want to play in.  Your financial projections are lies the moment you make them.  You may have to invite friends and good people to leave the company.

It’s OK!

You have to get started and you can’t wait until all the truth is revealed.  Otherwise someone else will solve your customer’s problem before you do.

Start with what you know now, but start nonetheless.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine…” – Dr. Who

“I don’t need to practice.  I’ve done this a number of times,” was the reply I got from an entrepreneur when I tried to schedule time to hear his pitch prior to the big pitch competition.  I strongly suggested he practice for me but he was adamant.  Practicing for others does not help him, he assured me.

His pitch turned out to be full of “um’s” and “ah’s” and “you know’s” .  He used technical jargon nobody understood and the story fell completely flat.  Too bad.  He had a great idea.

Communication is a two way street.  You have to say what you say and the listener has to hear and understand.  You can’t do this in your head.  There’s only one way to make sure your thoughts communicate what you want and that’s to test it for other’s feedback.

Guy Kawasaki says you should practice your pitch 25 times.  That’s how you are able to tell a good story rather than merely flip through slides.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

 

 

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” – Mark Twain

When you tell your story, you are selling your vision of the world as it will be when it has your product or service.  To be inspirational, the story has to present a world of delightful fantasy, while rooted in the realm of the believable.

The facts of the present must be faced honestly.  When you describe customer pain, people have to relate from personal experience.  Your market segments must reflect the true opportunity.  The competitive landscape has to be accurate without appearing hostile.  Failure to be authentic in these things will scrap your chances to sell your vision and your story loses credibility.

But if you do that well, the audience will allow you some freedom to show how things will be better once your product is available.  Your growth projections can be aggressive as long as the story is credible.  Your passion will sell your value proposition and people will want to be a part of the journey.

 

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson