Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Mention in The Guardian

The Pitch Live seems to be everywhere.  They were written up in The Guardian, where you can see some of the things we all did and said.

An honor to be quoted among some of the other talented people participating.  To name a few, the article discusses the value of excellent pitching with words from winner, Arthur Kay from Bio-Bean and judges Lara Morgan and Heron Capital.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Laughing is the best way to learn: What NOT to do with slides

This video was sent to me kindly by my client, Alex Webb, at Clean and Cool Mission UK after I did a video for their teams as an aid to a pitch learning day we'll do together in November.

If no one every helped you with a pitch, or if you haven't been able to find the discipline to create a deck that really works, you'll enjoy this.  And if you've got rid of bad habits, you'll enjoy it more.

Here's the best way to create a slide deck by avoiding everything you could do wrong.  And remembering why.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Pitch - Live - In Bristol

Reporting back on The Pitch in Bristol from London, I'm not sure where to start.  Thank you to everyone who participated in my keynote workshop before the festivities began.  I was told by many that each of you helped the others enormously not just by showing mistakes but also by demonstrating your strengths.

It's not easy learning new tricks right before performing.  I congratulate you all.

Second of all, what a wonderful addition this year to add 275K from investors to companies they choose, whether or not they win the pitching event.  It felt like a very friendly room with everyone giving

The Pitch was not only a lot of fun for me, but those pitching had a great time.  I got more email from this event than from The Entrepreneur Festival a few weeks ago, even though the Pitch participants numbered a quarter of the other event. Here's something on BBC Radio as well.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How to Raise Money from Investors: Learn to Communicate First So There's Energy for the Rest

Many of my clients come to me initially to hone a one-off pitch for investors.  Their logic goes something like this: if I can impress the right people with my messaging, I'm in!

What everyone quickly realises is that far from having quick results, fund-raising requires a long, long slog.  An engaging 3-minute monologue is not enough.  Effective fund-raising also requires the ability to impressively answer investors' questions, command an hour-long meeting, talk to the press, and network with high-level individuals.

The pitch is just the beginning.

Paul Graham's article describes the level of focus it takes to raise money to keep your company going.  If you get your business communication right first, the rest becomes a lot easier.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Event in Bristol: The Pitch Live

Today I'm going to Bristol to give the opening talk at The Pitch Live.  We'll be going through a check list to make sure the teams have everything they need as well as getting them inspired to perform with confidence.

Looks like a great group of companies, and it should be a fun. 

Stay tuned for the winners.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Key Note at UKTI's Global Entrepreneur Festival

I had the privilege of giving the keynote workshop on pitching -- twice -- at the British Government's first Global Entrepreneur Festival for students.

I thank everyone for participating with so much enthusiasm and congratulate you for creating such robust pitches in such a short period of time.

This was not your average group of students.  After arriving on the first morning, many jet lagged from traveling, these young people met for the first time, divided into groups, and quickly agreed on a new business idea.  Over the course of the next two days, the ideas were honed, pitches were devised and practiced, and then the ideas were delivered to judges.

From those who have been in touch, I know that individuals are still in touch to talk about the possibilities of really creating the companies they began.

It will be exciting to watch, Sirius, UKTI's new accelerator take off next.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

People want Authentic Leaders: But How Much is Too Much?

When people work with me, whether it be on an investment or client pitch, we collaborate to start a conversation that listeners want to continue.  The real business is done in another room, long after the last word or slide of the pitch is long over.

Conversations depend on a certain level of trust.  If you are going to listen to someone, you have to believe that he or she means what is said.  Otherwise, there is no listening and no real engagement.

Therefore, authenticity in communication is key to successful leadership in business.  But how much is too much?  What is the balance between credibility and intruding on a listener with personal information?

Here's an excellent piece from Forbes on just that topic.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Structure is Critical

A client called me the other day because he was having a hard time writing a response to an RFP.  Although he is an expert in his field, he was stymied.  He needed to complete it in short order but was baffled about where to start -- or where to go once he began.

This is not unusual: those with great knowledge often find that details begin to cloud the big picture.  It's hard to know how to organise thoughts when you know every intricacy of a field.

After 20 minutes phone consultation, during which we reviewed the necessary elements, the proper structure became apparent.

My client composed the piece and submitted it immediately after our discussion.  The good news: his firm received authorization to start the work the very same day.  His client was so impressed that she speeded up her company's approval process by sending a purchase order and asked for an invoice immediately.

Get the structure right, and the rest will follow.  Those who have worked with me on in-person communication know it's my mantra.  No less for anything we write.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Communication as the Most Immediate Road to Leadership

People often ask me for tricks and tips to be a more polished presenter.  It's the wrong question.  The right question is how can I adjust what I say and how I say it to be a leader?

Leadership has become a buzz word, and like the word "awesome," the loss of its original meaning will be felt.  There really is no other word that can express the same idea.

Leadership is the essential, unspoken goal of every act of communication when you're trying to persuade.  In fact, Mark Pagel believes that the power of language is not just learned but also genetic.  No wonder a little bit of practice and the right feedback can make a weak speaker into a commanding one.

The only indisputable measure of leadership (and to that end, great speaking) is the number and calibre of people who follow. 

As an aside, this is one reason for which corporate departments' claims of "Thought Leadership" seem rather flimsily conceived.  The term they're looking for is "business insight".  Claiming leadership before the insight is tested in the market is just a bluff.

However, if you want to see how leadership is done through public speaking, take a look at Malala's talk at the UN.

To decide whether you agree or not, here's the question: would you disagree with what she says?  Is your faith in what's possible invigorated?  Would you follow her?

And she's just 16.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More on Carol Dweck: What Does Feedback on Intelligence Do for Performance, in Schools and Work?

Continuing from the last post, what does feedback have to do with the way we perform, as children and adults?  And is it ever too late to change our mindset?

Carol Dweck has found that those kids with a growth mindset - those who think intelligence can be expanded through effort -- recover from set backs, take on difficult tasks, and improve scores more easily than those who do not.

What's more, a growth mindset can be learned, at least in part by the kind of feedback children receive from adults and each other.  Here's her example:

Children in Chicago schools of the same age and with the same scores were given three kinds of feedback when completing a task:

1. Wow, great score!  You must be smart at this.
2. Wow, great score!  You must have worked very hard.
3. Wow, great score.

The first is a fixed mindset response, reflecting that intelligence is set.  The second is a growth mindset response, reflecting that through effort, new connections are made in the brain and can increase what we think of as intelligence.  The third was the control group response, neither one nor the other.

After the task and feedback, all children were told that they could do whatever they wanted next.  They were offered the choice between a task that they could do easily or one that would take effort.

Those with fixed mindset feedback took the easy task.  They had been told they were smart, and they didn't want to jeopardise their status.

Those with growth mindset feedback took the harder task.  They felt they would be rewarded, both in their growth and from adults, from making an effort.

The control group came somewhere in the middle.

Perhaps not surprising, Dweck has found that the same sort of results occur with feedback in an office environment. 

For more, here's a video from Carol Dweck on mindsets and how they shape all of our performance.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Carol Dweck and Transforming Mindsets from Fixed to Growth

Continuing from the last post changing attitudes toward marketing objects, here is one on marketing the way we think.

At the RSA yesterday, I heard Dr. Carol Dweck talking her research that shows academic results for children are determined not by intelligence, not by effort, but by mindsets.  This might sound obvious, but not when you dig down.

It also applies to adults in business, but let's start with the kids and work our way up.

Two Mindsets: Fixed vs. Growth

Dweck contends that there are two ways of thinking about oneself and one's academic achievements: Fixed and Growth.  The Fixed Mindset is characterised by the conviction that intelligence is a fixed trait.  You are either smart, or you're not.

This mindset is characterised by a reluctance to try new things, difficult challenges, anything that you don't begin with the knowledge that you will succeed.   These children, above all, don't want to look foolish.  There is also the belief that a task should be avoided if it requires effort.  Again, you're either smart at something, or you're not.

The Growth Mindset, by contrast, posits that intelligence can be developed.  In this way of thinking, anything that requires effort is useful because new connections are being created in the brain.  Kids in this group will embrace difficult tasks, and effort is to be expected.  Kids have more resilience when set-backs appear.

Setting the Stage: Studying a Struggling Population

In her research on children "fulfilling potential" intellectually (more on "potential" later), Dweck focused on the transition into 7th grade in a large group of schools.  7th grade is populated largely 13-year-olds, and as Dweck says, the move from the year below can be challenging.  Academically, it signals more work, dividing class members into subject areas, bigger class size, less individual attention.

The emotional effects of these changes, usually without support, are compounded by a dissolution of class cohesion: you might only see familiar faces, including your friends, in one class rather than throughout the day as courses each have their own population.

Some Research to Back it Up

Amidst these changes, the difference in performance, Dweck found, was determined by the way in which children thought about learning.  Dweck studied students who all began with the same scores in math.  Those who had integrated a growth mindset saw a steady increase in grades.  Those with a fixed mindset saw the same decrease in scores that created the reason for the study in the first place.

More on growth mindsets and feedback, and what this has to do with business, in the next post.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Tangible/Visible Cues vs. Digital Media and the Learning Process

Digital strategy consultant, Dean Landsman, is writing an article about disappearing artifacts such as radios and record albums.  At first it felt simply sentimental, but in fact, there are business implications as well.

Dean's article begins by telling a story about passing an apartment in New York without curtains, looking in at the boxes ready for moving out, and the effect of seeing book spines and album covers he recognised.  From four objects -- specifically, 2 albums and 2 books -- Dean could ascertain that the people in the flat were about his age, probably from the same educational/social/economic background, and, like him, were probably Jewish.

He then asked me: what would I have known about these people if the content had been in digital format?  Probably nothing.

Dean wondered to me what the difference is exactly:
There are a number of angles to pursue to expand the narrative.  What became of "bedside books" or bedside reading?  What are the new signals, what if anything,is it that replaces those "identifying" and telling items?  Also, in learning, if the Period Table was always in view in a classroom (or student's bedroom) then the learning process might have had some element of osmosis.  When the lack of daily or regular visual repetition is gone, does this change the learning process?

It's hard to believe that content in digital format will offer the same impact if left on a computer, ipod or kindle, and viewed/read/heard as is.    First of all, digitally formatted objects don't reveal their contents unless you open them on a computer/device, unless, like an album, the cover is distinctive.

Forget about peeping in windows and learning about strangers.  Because we learn from association, and there are no visual cues to distinguish one piece of content from another in equally sized plastic covers, it's much harder for the content to stick in the head.

Objects that can be differentiated at a glance -- size, texture, or implied aural experience (say, where the dial is set on a radio) -- offer fewer cues and therefore fewer associations.  Emotional attachment/engagment isn't easy without a more immediate visual connection for us between the content inside and ourselves outside the object.

Let's take the example of the book by the bed.  The frequency of seeing the cover, feeling the texture of the cover/pages give us two ways to relate to the book as an object.  When the book is carried and read in a new context -- say outside, or on a train -- all the associations go with the content.  And the more senses that we engage in our exposure to content, the more likely we will learn it.

If we only open the book on a computer or kindle, we've got only one frame (the computer/kindle) on a desk, and we won't see the cover repeatedly, over time.  It therefore won't make the same impression. 

To change the impact, we'd need to create different contexts to see the same content -- albeit, online.  That's not impossible.  We can perhaps engage with it in a specially designed game, associate sound or music with it, and vary the kinds of interaction over time. 

Again, as human beings, we learn by association.  A book is a book, because it isn't a chair, before it's a book without reference to another object.  So our experience of some kinds of digital media will narrow associations due to the way we experience the format, perhaps its time to get more creative about new ways of interacting to make learning work online.

Dean's point is about marketing online, but the issues are not dissimilar.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Legal Expertise on Open Source Licensing - and It's Free.

I work with Dan Glazer on the Coming To America Mini-Accelerator helping UK companies expand to the US.

The day is free of charge and requires no equity from participants.  Instead, it "accelerates" companies' progress in that we walked them through the visa process (new programme for entrepreneurs!) with the people who actually issue the visas to the US, gave them an hour with me to hone a 30-second pitch for the market, highlighted legal minefields others have walked into, and gave ideas on access to finance.

I don't usually work with Service Providers: my experience has been that they want to take from high- growth companies far exceeds the value they offer.  Although marketing and new client acquisition is always part of the thinking in any business, with Dan at Fried Frank, they have been giving at least as much to the London ecology as they have been getting.

I met Dan when I was thrown together with him and his Firm during the last UKTI Digital Mission to New York which they sponsored.  The lawyers participated in the pitching sessions and were genuinely concerned with the companies' successes.  So much so that Dan enthusiastically came up with one of the tag lines that one company still uses to represent itself.  It's hard not to like Dan.

Here's some more free information on legal issues to look out for, in the event that you're working with Open Source systems, or considering it.  This goes for large and small companies -- the issues are the same and can get quite complex.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thank You for the Shout-Out, BBC Worldwide Labs: And Congratulations!

Had a great time with you all at the Labs, as I said in an earlier post about the BBC Worldwide's model for entrepreneur success.

For those who aren't familiar with the model, check out the kind BBC blog post

Hope to see you again soon and hear about which teams succeeded in working with a new client.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

TV and Film as Guides for Presentation Skills: But Beware of What's Left Out

Naturalism in Acting

It's pretty common for people with a theatre background, like me, to coach (read: collaborate) with business people in order to help them find a comfortable, persuasive manner and vocabulary for them onstage, in presentations, for pitches, and in conversations generally.  Why not when the goal of an actor is to persuade, create empathy, and generally win an audience over?

There is a lot to be learned from acting in this sphere, particularly when combining and tailoring a range of acting for a particular person's temperament, strengths, and blind spots.  Acting is really all about listening and reacting in the moment, and it surprisingly takes a lot of training to be natural in character.

95% practice, 5% inspiration, I always say.  And you can't depend on the latter without having done the former.

Theatre Vs. Film/TV

Although acting is often similarly natural across media, the effect is very different.  It's not just the live vs. non-live experience, which certainly changes one's experience of performance.  In business, think of it as the difference of being on skype and in the same room with someone.  The conversations won't be the same.

However, perhaps even more important, the dynamic of conversation is portrayed differently between film (and TV) and theatre.  In the former, your view of the dynamic between people as they talk is often obscured by focusing the camera in a close-up on one face.  So when using professional actors as role models, remember you're only seeing one side of the story.

Without a reaction from a listener, how can you be sure that the actor has hit the mark? 

An Example

I went to see The Audience with Helen Mirren as part of The National Theatre Live series.  It seems like an excellent deal: 20 quid to see a hundred-pound-per-ticket play televised as it is performed live.

The play depends on our belief that we are learning about Queen Elizabeth II as a human being through fictional, if informed, regularly scheduled visits she had with her prime ministers from her coronation through the recent Jubilee.  We learn, too, about her ministers, but the focus is Elizabeth as child becoming woman knowing she will be Queen, and then woman sustaining the dignity of the monarchy regardless of the personal cost.

What Was Great

The Audience pulled off an unlikely win in enacting the conversations of which the play is entirely comprised.  It's hard enough to suspend disbelief when a writer lays its credibility on the shoulders of 1 or 2 central characters' resemblance to historical counterparts.  Consider Frost/Nixon, The Iron Lady, Lincoln, or Peter and Alice.  Like The Audience, these were also composed almost entirely of conversations, but they only had to really persuade contemporary audiences that one of the characters seemed enough like the images with which we're all familiar.

However, The Audience's triumph is the credible representation of 10 or 11 characters as iconic as Churchill, the current Prime Minister, and the reigning Queen of England, even when the physical resemblance is more symbolic than photographic.

What Was Missing: For Those Looking to Learn for Business

The problem with the National Theatre's televised version is that you rarely see two characters at once during a conversation.  Because the viewer/listener lacks context, we focus only on what one character wants to say about themselves and not the dynamic between the two.  In other words, we can't see the reason for much of the dialogue if we can't see the faces and body language of the listener.  We are left to assume the reason for response based on viewing close-up one side of the conversation.

Why This is Worth Remembering

All effective conversations and presentations begin a conversation that listeners want to continue, whether it is in the form of a monologue or dialogue, whether in a grand ballroom onstage or at a boardroom table. 

The way you present and the things you say should be effected by the body language and expressions of your listeners.  In any presentation, watch the listeners more carefully than whomever is speaking.  You'll have a better idea of how to persuade when you take into account what has impact on others.

Friday, June 14, 2013

BBC Labs: A Wide Range of Talent

I visited BBC Labs this week to help entrepreneurs pitch to internal departments. I have reason to believe a great time was had by all.

First, it's wonderful model with which to adapt technology within a large business.  Rather than offering the companies debt (most often known as "investment"), BBC Labs offers the companies office space and the chance to win a client in one of its departments looking for new tech strategies.  Revenue is hard to come by.  Debt they can get anywhere.

See some of BBC Labs entrepreneurs' results, even at this early stage in its development.

Second, the companies were all innovative, smart, and enough along in their product to offer something of value to the markets.  That's a hard thing to say about the choices made by an incubator, let alone an office space provider.

I had only an hour and a half with the group, most of whom hadn't had the kind of pitch training for clients that I offer.  I'm not sure why that is exactly -- to me it's rather common sense.  Everyone watched as teams got practice with feedback, one by one.  I focused on different issues for each, depending on the need.

The speed with which we worked created an intense room, but there was also a lot of laughter. 

I felt quite honored when Jenny Fielding, Head of Digital Ventures at BBC Worldwide, wrote:

Big thank you for yesterday - it was great. I caught up with everyone later in the day and they were all super impressed / appreciative. Let's see how they do today on round two...
This is the kind note I received from Hannah Blake, the organiser:

Annette - THANK YOU!
You were absolutely fantastic and we all feel so inspired.

To both of you, I'd like to say the feeling is absolutely mutual.  I'd come back anytime.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Idealism and Entrepreneurship? A Provocative Indictment of Silicon Valley Today

There is often an automatic assumption that the goal of a young entrepreneurs is to change the world for good.  And in the UK, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the the destinations of choice, both for funding and for a sense that there are so many people all working toward a common goal of facilitating positive global transformation.

George Packer in The New Yorker wrote a provocative article on The Valley and culture of entrepreneurship that brings this into question.  As someone who hasn't been to California in over 10 years, it was rather distressing.

Monday, June 03, 2013

BBC Labs and Elevator Pitching

I've been asked to do some pitch collaboration with the companies at BBC Worldwide Labs on 12 June.  Hannah Blake, who blogs for BBC Labs and organises the programme, is wonderful to work with and very creative. 

For news and information, you can follow them on Twitter @bbcwlabs.  Lots going on worth checking out.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Annual Lecture: St. George's House, Windsor Castle

The Annual Lecture by Jane Goodall at St. George's House, Windsor Castle was thrilling.  Jane recounted her transformation from girl to scientist (at 5) that led to a move to Africa and field work (without a university education), and her subsequent work as an activist, first on behalf of research and then on behalf of the planet.

More for anyone pitching for clients of investment -- no matter how concise and expert you are within each piece of your message, discipline is necessary to win the day:
Although Dr. Goodall didn't ramble once --her mind is sharp and articulation of ideas crisp as ever -- her talk went on much too long.  It was a shame because what she said was so nuanced and powerful, yet the overall, final impression was completely diffused and vague.

The event itself was star-studded: members of the Royal Family, House of Lords, Bank of England -- you name it.  St. George's House is a tremendously rare valuable institution for conversations about Big Ideas, and anyone interested should certainly investigate.  I'm quite honored to have been made an Associate as an honor (generally you buy a seat), and I look forward to more adventures.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Honored by St. George's House, Windsor Castle

Monday I was named an associate at St. George's House, Windsor Castle Windsor.  Particularly as an American in London, I'm a bit overwhelmed.  It's a post you usually pay to fill, but I was made associate for service rendered to the house.

Windsor Castle Consultations are conversations around insight regarding business, culture, healthcare,  commercial practice, organisational values, brand, and any other large internationally relevant topic you can name.

It's what the corporations call thought leadership, although I don't believe you can call anything leadership unless anyone is actually following you.  Let's instead call it very smart people from across disciplines making short work of big problems.

Started by Prince Philip, the consultations last about a day and a half and take place entirely at Windsor Castle, complete with the most interesting private tour of the chapel at 10pm I've ever experienced.

In any case, I'm honored to be said to belong among the great minds who participate, fund, and play there.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Coming to America: Mini-Accelerator for Companies Expanding from the UK

I am fortunate to have participated in FriedFrank's Mini-Accelerator Coming to America for which I have been asked to be a co-founder by Dan Glazer.  You'd never guess that a White Shoe American law firm would be so smart about the start-up scene -- and so entirely non-predatory -- but they are genuinely interested in improving the ecosystem both here and in NYC.

Companies competed for a slot in one of two day-long events that provided information and contacts for everything from IP to pitch training to how to get a visa.   The companies ranged from strictly consumer online commerce to business-to-business enabling technologies.

It was an intense couple of days, and well worth it -- Everyone who participated said they got a lot out of it, and we learned lessons for the next one as well.  If you're interested in applying, please sign up for the Fall. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Digital Shoreditch: Panel on The Institute of Failure

This past week in London was busy and memorable, not least because of Digital Shoreditch.

Digital Shoreditch is worth attending, even if only to see everyone you have been trying to see all year and calendars have prevented it.  I was asked to sit on a panel by Dr. Mitra Mesmeria (scroll down to find her) to kick off her Institute of Failed Ideas.  More on that as it emerges.

The panel itself collected a few of us who have had seen failure only to find success later with persistent learning and dogged determination.  Mitra started the panel by talking about the way in which Digital Shoreditch came from a failed idea to begin with --this she told to a packed room, so clearly failure isn't forever.

My top tips:
1. Know yourself -- intellectual convictions are just abstract rationales for emotional reactions.  Know why you think what you do so you can be responsible for your convictions and decisions.

Associated with this is recognise and rieve losses, recognise when you need perspective and get it (even if it's faking it until you make it).  This will prevent bringing unresolved negative feelings into the next project or strategy and make it more likely you'll be successful.

2. Everything comes from 1 above.  Leading from that, impose work-life balance.  If you can't do it with love, do it with discipline.  Picking yourself up from your work and doing something you love will change your brain chemistry and make it easier to do it next time, or the time after.

The longer we live, the narrower our lives tend to get.  As company-owners, we shoot for results and try to make the road to get there as automated as possible.  This includes creative thinking.

You get much more than a break by ensuring you've got activities you love in your life separate from work.  All the feelings and associations -- and most important, connections -- that come with them will make you more creative and innovative when you get back to the grind.

3. Know when to let go.  And do it.  No matter how much time you've put into a company or initiative, know when you need to walk away.  Again, if you can't do it with love, do it with discipline.  Grieve the loss, and move on.

4. Don't globalise failure -- nothing is the end of the world.  Did I mention that if you don't do it with love, do it with discipline?   Do an audit of the things that succeed and fail, and remind yourself that this isn't forever.  In a couple of weeks, you'll know it without reminding.

The Mini-Accelerator Coming to America next.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Pitching for Lawyers: Remembering How to Have a (Real) Conversation

I worked this week and last with Associates at an International White Shoe Firm (as we call it in the US) to help frame conversations they can have with potential clients.  The week before, I worked with a Partner at another.

The goal: to be as much themselves as possible.

The principle is actually simple -- remember what works for you outside of work and then transfer to a work situation the reasons for which you communicate and the style/comfort level with it.

The doing of it is much harder.  The facility to transfer behavior across contexts requires practice after having acquired the habit of thinking (and behaving) as though living in the world and surviving at work are two entirely different processes.

My solution, as I've explained before: Sustainable Curiosity.

Interestingly, this practice for smart adults yields very effective adults.  Unlike a lot of people I know, I really like lawyers as a group exactly because the ones I know catch on quickly.  I had a great time, and from the Facebook comments, it seems they did, too.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Tremendous Video on Why Body Language Matters

Amy Cuddy of has a great explanation from a social scientist's perspective how we are judged by our body language

One thing that Harvard Business School has just learned what we have known in theatre for a long time.  You can't separate the way you move from the way you think.  It's the reason that "presentation skills" separated from the business proposition you're developing has much less impact when the two are done together.

Each influences the other, and both when developed together reinforces strengths and weaknesses of your case.  Be careful of people who say there are tricks to presenting effectively.  These are minor.  The most important thing to know is that how you think, develop ideas, and present them must be a unified process.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pitching as English-to-English Translation

I was working with a WPP executive on telling a more effective story for a new client with whose industry she wasn't entirely familiar.  She called me because the old tricks just weren't working for her.

Persuasion often involves what my friend James calls English-to-English translation: the ability to take language that one person believes describes the world and apply it to your argument about the world that might be quite different. 

Natural language --eg replacing jargon with words we use everyday -- is generally more effective than replacing one set of industry terms for another.  See TED for ways in which very clever people make very complex issues entirely straightforward entirely by translating language usually reserved for specialists into layperson's terms.

You don't have to go back to Plato to argue that every argument is an interpretation -- it's credibility that separates a business case from a rationalisation.  So be familiar with every convention within the context you're pitching -- convention is, by definition, what people take for granted.  Then you can build your argument in a way that will sell.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CISCO and Start-Up Support: New Resources for Start-Ups

I met with CISCO yesterday to discuss the possibility of working together on their Innovation Centre and start-up competitions.  I was thrilled to hear that an ex-client, Jenny Griffiths, had won their last challenge.  She and Snap-Fashion are absolutely tremendous. 

See what Fast Company said about Jenny Griffiths.

Small world, and it's great when someone wonderful is recognised with so much support.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

WAYRA Collaboration - Pitching to Win

In January, I worked with the WAYRA companies and their tremendous programme manager, Adah Parris.  The goal was a pitch practice and some guidelines for delivery.

Yesterday, Telefonica UK published a post about it.  It's pretty concise about what goes into the mix.  Take a look.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Lab at Telefonica

Yesterday, I went to visit Telefonica in Slough and visited with Shomila Malik.  It's a remarkable project -- a start-up within a large company investigating the ways in which innovation can both benefit the larger corporate venture and smaller tech stars who could create new possibilities if brought in.

Shomila is remarkable herself.  With the background of a programmer, she began by creating prototypes and sold them in through demonstration to make Telefonica meet customer needs more fully. 

It's a trend that is catching on.  As a pitch coach and brand consultant, businesses like The Lab seem like an obvious move for most big businesses.  After many interviews of intrapraneurs elsewhere, the trick seems to be selling in the new ideas, even after the structures are in place to house them.

Too often, innovators get frustrated and leave.  Larger companies, then, are left, dinosaur-like, and unable to move swiftly enough with the trends.  If anyone has seen a solution to this problem, please let me know.  I'm collecting stories, and I'll publish them in time.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Some Video on Pitching for Investment

In a nutshell, the most important thing you can do when pitching for investment is remember how investors listen.

You start to speak, and they hear something like "blah blah blah when-am-I-going-to-get-my-money-back blah blah why-should-I-believe-you?"

For Queen Mary, University of London, I did a speed session for academics who want to be entrepreneurs -- and the first stop is investors to get some seed funding.

I was given 15 minutes to sum it all up -- forgive the "ok's" and "rights" as I sped.  But here is some video on how to pitch for investment.   The specifics weren't filmed due to confidentiality issues with the start-ups.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

(More) Tips on Pitching for Investment

I've been asked repeatedly for more tips about pitching -- here you go!

The best strategy is to blend elements into a seamless story.  Here are the first series of tips about which I'll be elaborating in weeks to come:

1. Be aware that you are telling a story. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end with transitions that lead from one to the other and tell the listener where you’re going.

2. More on the importance of transitions: Always remember to tell listeners where you’re going. They are much more likely to listen because they know WHY to pay attention.

3. If you are unclear what the structure looks like for your story – which elements lie in the beginning, middle, and end – put each piece of your presentation on colored note cards that distinguish the sections of the story. It’s a good exercise no matter what-- so that you really understand how you’re telling your story and why.

4. The point of the pitch is for new contacts to feel it’s obvious to meet you and to learn more about your company/project. However, the reason for telling the story must have its own, more specific internal logic. This is the logic that drove you to work on this idea – and now drives you to give the highlights. It’s what gets the investors/clients/collaborators to feel (not think) that you have it going on. Even if you’re only doing it for the money, your personal investment in this project needs to be felt. If so, it will be contagious.

5. No one ever made a decision based entirely on data – it’s how much/in what way the data supports the feelings you can generate in the rest of the story that will win your audience over.

6. It helps your audience to engage to give specific, concrete stories within the story. These can be very short, but any time you offer an abstract concept, offer a concrete example.

7. Discard jargon in favor of day-to-day language. Pretend you’re talking to a room full of highly intelligent, successful, well-educated, curious bakers. What kind of language would you avoid?

8. More on bakers: don’t use acronyms. OECD is ok if said s-l-o-w-l-y, but for more frequently used acronyms, skip the letters and say all the words. It doesn’t take much longer – World Wide Web takes even less time to say than WWW.

9. Say your name slowly and deliberately. Leave a pause between your first and last name. It’s important that listeners understand you, or they will assume they won’t understand ANYTHING you say. You want their attention from the beginning.

10. Stay focused as you go – to make sure you are concentrating on the story, why you care about the story, and why the listeners should, too.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Focus when pitching for investment . . .

London is buzzing with new activity, and keeping up is fun but hectic.  The UKTI Mission to NY in November went very well indeed, as did a much more recent days with organisations like

Between the two, I've done much else, and there are videos on my site that show some of it.

Perhaps the most salient similarity among the groups is a tendency to cram too much into a 1-3-minute investment pitch. 

Two points worth making:

1. Be careful to keep an investment pitch entirely investor-focused-- it's not a marketing pitch.  If you combine marketing and investor information, the result tends to be a muddle for your listeners.  Know how your audience hears, and keep the data specific to what the room is listening for.

2. Slides should be used to support your story, not to lead it.  If you can make a point effectively without the use of a slide, get rid of the slide.  Certainly don't make your listeners read text.  It's distracting and, again, dilutes focus from the point you're making.

3. Don't try to be exhaustive when giving a pitch -- you win if you find a way NOT to have the last word.  The real business is done in another room, after the last slide is shown.  So get your audience to ask questions, leave room for curiosity, and just show a little leg.

4. For all you incubators and accelerators wanting to do the best for your companies, avoid VC whiplash.  Throwing lots of pitch advice at those pitching can be confusing.  And whether you choose me or someone else, it's helpful to learners to have a standard to which they're working consistently.  Any extra advice is fine, but have one person who is in charge of Best Practices to help companies sort through what's the best choice of content and behavior for them.