Thursday, October 11, 2012

Communicating In-Person Vs. Technologically: Great TED Talk

This is a treat -- Tanya Goldhaber gives wonderful context and sense to communication strategies in her TED Talk.

Check it out.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Dragon's Den: Professional Pitches Win

Congratulations to my client Dupsy Abiola, InternAvenue's CEO, who won investment last night on The Dragon's DenDupsy worked very hard on her pitch, and it goes to show that even the most poised and professional speakers can get to an even higher level with some help.

Here's a picture from the party -- a fabulous CEO and a remarkable performance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rereading David Ogilvy's How To's on Communication

Yesterday I had lunch with Ben Hardy, a thinker who designs courses for and teaches both in Cambridge's Executive Education programme and at the Open University in leadership, organisational behavior, change management, HR, and other essential areas necessary to know if you run a business.

He reminded me of David Ogilvy's rules of communication.  I hadn't forgot, but they're also useful to reread.  If you haven't seen them before, then definitely take a look:

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing*. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

6. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pitching as an Exercise in Remembering

Pitches are not just for the client, the investor, or any other particular audience.  One excellent requirement of an effective call to action is that you must remember why you care about what you do.  Credibility in your delivery depends on it.

Human beings are creatures of habit, and habit tends to diminish our emotional investment into inertia.  To make up for a lack of energy, we as business people can lean too heavily on jargon, tag lines, and exclamation points to communicate.  Then we all sound like each other to differentiate what makes our product or service remarkable.

One resource that can keep us awake is curiosity.  Sustainable curiosity would make every conversation new, all by itself.  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bristol Pound Notes: Doug Rushkoff Redux

Doug Rushkoff, hero of urging consumers to become producers and to use local currency, would be proud today of the new Bristol Pound Notes.

People lined up around the block last night to trade their GBP for the new currency only to be spent in independent shops in Bristol.

Will people only collect them?  Will they take off?  Watch this space.

Here's some more on Doug Rushkoff's notion of fiduciary responsibility.

What do you do with a PhD? Start a Company.

If you're interested in seeing the process by which tech and science researchers are becoming entrepreneurs at Queen Mary, please see Queen Mary College's Report on the day at Hackney House.

If you scroll down, there's a section on the pitch workshop I led, in addition to much other useful information and helpful links.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Busy, busy busy: UCL, Queen Mary, and More

I've been working with UCL SMILE Programme, Queen Mary, and UKTI Tech City lately (among others) and am happy to report that entrepreneurship is in rather wonderful shape in London.

Although with specialised incubator programmes like Springboard young companies have always been impressive, the calibre of companies has improved exponentially since last year in open enrollment classes. 

Here's something, too, coming up for all you younger folk who want to try your hand.  I'll be doing the pitch training, and I very much look forward to meeting you.

The 2012 Young Entrepreneurs Festival, organised by The Tech City Investment Organisation, in partnership with the Creative Pioneers Can-Start programme of the IPA and Metro, and supported by ad:tech London, brings together 150 of the brightest aspiring young entrepreneurs to compete for a chance to pitch to angel investors and potentially raise seed funding for their business idea.

For 2 days before the final, the contenders (in 2 age groups, 16-24 and 25+), will have been judged and supported by dozens of mentors, successful entrepreneurs, experienced business people, creatives and technologists, giving their time and expertise completely free of charge in order to help aspiring talent achieve greater potential. On Day 1, the 150 young entrepreneurs are whittled down to the best 50%, who advance through to Day 2. After more intensive support, coaching and scrutiny, at the end of day two, the top 10 will be announced.

Each of the 10 finalists has 3-5 minutes to present to the audience at Ad:Tech on Day 3, which will include a number of specially invited angel investors. There will be a judging panel. After hearing all 10 pitches, the top 3 and overall winner of the contest will be announced, and there will be prizes of generously donated business support.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What it Would Be Great to Have Known at 20

A friend sent me this clip of Tina Selig from Stanford's Technology Programme.

More on why every problem is an opportunity.  How do you teach creativity?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pitching: Change the Physics of Data

Today we'll have the London Tech City Mentoring event for which start-ups have been preparing.

Pitching is really just saying what you want others to hear, in the way you want them to hear it.  I'll take here David White's vision for his own company, Kusiri.

Pitching can transform the physics of data.

In this paradigm for pitching (maybe it also applies to Kusiri?), the Law of Integrity is governed by the addition of conviction.  If you feel that what you say is important, then others will, too. 

Empathy is a chemical reaction.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Springboard in Action

Yesterday I worked as pitch doctor with Springboard's start-up teams for a second time to help them prepare for Demo Day on 5 July.  Impressive progress from our first round two weeks ago.  They'll now practice every day until we meet again on 4 June for a final run-through.

The challenge here is both content and performance -- you can say all the right things, but if you don't sound like you care, listeners won't either.

This matters a lot when you're pitching for investment.

To make things more challenging for our heroes, Estonia's Wise Guys incubator start-ups are pitching in the morning before Springboard even arrives.  Springboard's companies must really shine if they want to be noticed after investors have already had a morning of listening for opportunities.

For now, here's evidence that at least one of the teams, Teddle, does actually do what it says on the tin.

Teddle found Jess Williamson, key player in Springboard's success, a local hairdresser immediately, which is when she needed one.  In fact, the treat made Jess, with very few hours sleep, look a lot like a Bond Girl.

Here's the proof -- and stay-tuned for more on Springboard.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't Like How Your Business is Going? Tell a Different Story

In Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kantor sums up very succinctly how the wrong narrative can sink your business and the right one can get you back on track.

The first step is recognizing that the right story is THAT important.  The second is finding the right person to script it.

I spent the last week in NY with Emma Gilding, a rebranding expert, working with a small company to raise their profile.

Just a tip on hiring -- those of us who started in theatre have an instinctive grasp of effective narrative and how to make it work.  Our training?  Make something believeable to a crowd of people you've never met out of absolutely nothing, on deadline.

Emma began in the theatre with many similar convictions as I.  In fact, we even overlapped at Central School of Speech and Drama in London.  She was a student -- I was only helping out a friend. 

In any case, find the underlying truth, create the right script, play it with conviction, and it's hard for your business to fail.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Second Pitching Event: Lessons Learned

The second pitching event at Hackney House, leading to a Speed Mentoring session on 29 June, was even more well attended than the first.  Everyone worked very hard, and after 4 hours, we had all stories reframed and ready for practice.

One of the participants, Peter Johnston of wrote to me afterwards: "I wanted to thank you for the feedback from Friday, I've digested a lot of it, and will be much stronger next time I hope."

Where Does Hope Come Into It?

Here's a big challenge: the first time you transform a story whose telling has become habit, you're left in the in the space between the comfort zone you had before and the dazzling effect you're like to achieve.

In other words, it's unfamiliar territory.

The only way to go back to a place where you feel comfortable -- with material more effective than that which you had a habit of repeating - is to practice.  You then have replaced ineffective habits with more effective ones.

All the participants promised to do some homework -- to write their pitches on cards and learn it so that if someone were to wake them in the middle of the night, they could rattle off the story by heart.  Only once you know something cold can you improvise - as you must with each new set of listeners -- because you know how far you can go out on a limb before you have to come back.

It's a lesson Max Roach taught me at 21 on my first day working at La Mama Cafe back in my days as a theatre dramaturg. It's one that I relearn every time I work with a new client.

So here's the very impressive Peter Johnston and me -- come hear his story on the 29th. 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Calling All Start-Ups to Hackney House

I led a pitching event at Hackney House last week.  I've never seen a Pop-Up Venue so elaborate.  It's very much worth checking out.

On 15 June, there will be another that will qualify start-ups for the Speed-Mentoring event on 30 June.  You can win a Kindle if you're the best at it.

It's all free of charge, sponsored by UKTI, so register by emailing Karen Ball as soon as possible:

All you Start-Ups who need a place to work and be inspired, visit even without the pitching event.  You'll probably need to wear headphones to prevent distraction.  It's full of genuinely interesting-looking people and events. And the furniture is rather fabulous, too (Philip Stark, eat your heart out).

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Blah Blah Blah Investment Blah Blah Blah

Following on from the last post on investment pitches, I'm clearly not the only one to read Gary Larsen.  And investors aren't the only ones known for their strategy of listening through pattern recognition.

A friend and client, Angelica Robinson of Jobs4Creatives, sent me this:

Investor Pitches - Hear Here

One of the ways I describe how and what investors hear in a pitch is through the cartoon "What a Dog Hears" by Gary Larson.

Where Gary Larsen puts "Ginger," insert "when-will-I-get-my-money-back?", "How-big-is-the-market-so-I-will-get-my-money-back?", "what-is-your-usp-so-I-will-get-my-money-back?," and so forth. No disrespect intended -- we all are creatures of pattern recognition because it saves time and attention.

No disrespect intended - we're all creatures of pattern recognition because it saves time and energy. So know the patterns your listeners attend, and you can't help but be heard.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Me(e)ta Language Close-Up

It's always best to get rid of as much jargon as possible when articulating a business proposition. Obvious perhaps -- it's best to engage as many and exclude as few prospects as possible, and words shouldn't divide.

This non-jargonated discourse is usually called natural language, however even the terms we use to get rid of obfuscation is jargon. My friend and writer, Carl Honore, introduced me to a great set of pod casts produced by Slate.

The series is called Lexicon Valley and goes into the most wonderful detail about English grammar and the meaning behind it.

Check it out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Internet is a Very Big Place

Who knew I was listed in Bloomberg/Business Week?

I certainly didn't. Not a big point, but the Internet is a very big place.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gaming for Good Causes: Playmob

Saw an ex-client today who is doing very well -- always a great thing to feel one has been useful.

Jude Ower, CEO of Playmob, after winning the pitching competition at the Tech City Festival this summer in London, the company also continues to gain recognition for a Playmob's very smart business model and the good work it can do.

Playmob allows game companies to offer fund raising campaigns to charities through gamers' purchase of virtual objects to navigate the game. The game company makes 30%, Playmob makes 20%, and the charity makes 50% of the proceeds.

Don't get me wrong -- this is no not-for-profit. Jude's just come up with a fun, smart way to accomplish a task that usually makes both fundraisers and givers anticipate a task not unlike that of Sisyphus.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dragon's Den Success

I must congratulate my client for getting through the fire and other scary stuff (like humiliating questions) rife in The Dragon's Den.

The Den demands all stay shtum about contestants before airing, so I can't tell you much.  But I can tell you that this particular person went from not knowing what to say to poised pitch in three days. 

Knowing your story by heart, and then underlying it with conviction, is the most potent combination for seemingly effortless and persuasive performance.

Very much like acting onstage, effective pitching is 95% practice, 5% inspiration, once you have the right feedback.  Even an amateur can become a professional in a relatively short period of time.

Watch this space for more, once I'm allowed to give more information.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Douglas Rushkoff Redux

I attended a St. George's House consultation that has made me think about many of the very smart friends give new perspectives on what we take for granted.

It's not an easy feat to come up with a credible alternative to behavior and attitudes that have become invisible to us, particularly in business.

First on my list is Doug Rushkoff whose Life, Inc. is certainly worth considering. Here's an older link to Doug's Ofcom talk about the history and relationships among corporations, economics, and work.

See what you think.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Getting Young People Into Work in the UK (and Everywhere)

In the UK, there are more young people out of work than ever before. According to The Guardian, a record 18% of people between 18 and 24 don't have a job. For those of you outside the UK, these kids are being called the lost generation.

As we who have been unemployed before know, sending blind cv's to job sites usually bring no answer. If you're lucky, you get a polite form letter to announce receipt or your application or to say the job went to someone else.

So what can one do? My experience has been that times of crisis are opportunities for the enterprising and entrepreneurial. Don't wait for a job, make one.

More in the next post.