7 Fatal Voice Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make when Pitching

3dBook_Cover_Voiceable_03_600x824Why some of the things you can’t even hear yourself saying may be killing your pitch and ruining your first Impressions

In my head I sound like George Clooney – deep and sexy. But when I hear a recording of myself, I’m reminded more of Stevie Urkel. The voice inside my head is a lie. Inside your head too.

It´s a universal human phenomenon. If you are like most human beings, then you dislike the sound of your recorded voice. You avoid it. You certainly don’t want to work on it.

Think about this for a moment… Your voice is your most important communication tool, and yet you cannot really hear yourself like others hear you. If you cannot hear yourself properly, then how can you be certain that your voice is not sabotaging your messages and sending conflicting signals?

Have you ever heard someone say one thing, and yet you suspect they mean something entirely different? Like a slippery used car salesman who promises one thing while your suspicions start to scream that it might be a completely different can of worms? Like an American presidential candidate whose words say one thing, but the voice gives you a completely different message?

Maybe you are telling the truth or maybe not, but the voice inside your head is a lie. We are all deaf to our own voices. We don’t like them. We don’t want to hear ourselves. We think we are better than we truly are.

Maybe that is why we never even think of the fact that we can actually choose many different voices to go along with and strengthen specific messages in our speeches and our presentations.

«If you cannot hear yourself properly, then how can you be certain that your voice is not sabotaging your messages and sending conflicting signals?»

But it gets worse. It’s not only that you can´t hear yourself, but whenever you take the stage to present or stand up to lead a meeting, your listeners are going to instantly judge you. According to numerous research studies, first impressions are made within the blink of an eye. Within as short a time as 30 seconds or less, audiences will already have judged your personality. If they find you to be dynamic, then they will tune you in. If they find you to be boring, then their minds will escape other places and you will fight an uphill battle the remainder of your pitch or presentation trying to win them back.

And the newest research and neuroscience shows that your voice is absolutely a key element. During the first 30 seconds, it isn’t as much your words as your voice.

Your facial expressions and body language are very important, and most of us know this. But how much have you considered the impact your voice has? Your voice is how audiences will judge complicated things like personality. Your voice will quickly establish whether you sound competent or clueless on your topic. Your voice is how audiences will judge whether you sound credible and trustworthy or not trustworthy. Your voice is how audiences will judge whether you sound authentic or if you are just faking It. This is the harsh reality. You will be instantly judged and your voice is a key element.

«This is the harsh reality. You will be instantly judged and your voice is a key element.»

If the first problem is that you cannot hear yourself, and the second is that you will be judged, then the third problem is that most people don’t believe that they can change their voices. They just assume that they have the voice that they were born with and that’s it. Nothing can be done about it. This is very, very wrong. And it is a lot easier to take control of your voice than you probably realize.

Next time you leave a voice message for example, stop for a moment to think about what messages (aside from the content) you are transmitting with your voice. What was the tone? Was there a friendliness in your voice? Was there urgency? Did you signal that you were stressed? Angry? Depressed? Bored? … or just nothing. Was your message completely devoid of any emotion? Is that truly what you intended? Are you the kind of speaker that others will want to listen to?

«Are you the kind of speaker that others will want to listen to?»

You are used to listening to other people’s voices, but how often do you take time out to listen to your own? Most voice mail is ill-prepared, dull and can be difficult to understand. Because one’s own voice sounds acceptable in one’s head, many people don’t bother to project their voice or to add any emotion to it. Rather, they let it dribble down their chins leaving the listener with an impression of sloppiness, or at worst complete incomprehension.

Your voice is your most powerful communication tool. You must own your own voice! Take charge of the airwaves. Learn how to harness the full power of your authentic speaking voice.

Click here to sign-up for a free 15 page report entitled: You Can’t HEAR Yourself, 7 Fatal Voice Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching.

The Secret to Pitching your Business in 30 seconds

If you can’t tell me in 30 seconds what you do and what you want, then I am not buying, investing or probably even listening any longer (except out of politeness).

While serving as an expert reviewer at venture contests I have heard hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. Sadly to say very, very few get it right. Often I am left completely clueless about what their real business models and concepts are. I fail to understand what is unique and what would compel me to either invest or get involved. Help is sorely needed!

The Easy Solution

Successfully pitching a business idea in 30 seconds is much simpler than most people realize. And by the way… if you cannot do it in 30 seconds, then you wont be able to do it in 30 minutes either! My first piece of advice would be to select a model that works rather than experimenting on your own. There are many different models that we teach at Quickminds, but perhaps the simplest and best is the Message Map.

Build a Message Map in 3 simple steps.

Step 1: First, you need to write a simple Key Message Statement. Treat it like a Twitter message. Twitter has taught us several great communication messages. First Twitter has trained us to write short messages. They are limited to 140 characters, so you must think about brevity and clarity. Second, Twitter has trained us to write powerful messages. They are all designed to get you to take action (either to click on a link, to attend an event, or to write to your congressman).  To be compelling, your Key Message also needs to include a claim. Claims stake out the territory and qualify your offering. Do you dare to claim that your product can increase your customer’s profit $$ by 50%? Don’t be dishonest, but don’t be overly conservative. This is one of the hardest tasks for engineers and programmers, who want to be exact and perfectly factual in all statements. Find a way to make a compelling claim and you will grab the interest of your audience immediately. Write your Key Message Statement like a tweet and put it at the centre of the page.

Step 2: Write three Supporting Points. Select the three (and only three) points you need to make in order to back-up your Message Statement. A chair with only two legs will not stand on its ‘own. A chair with five legs is just too complicated. Three is the perfect number. Select points that have importance and emotional appeal to your listener. Remember to think from their viewpoint and not just from your own. What are the real benefits of your product or service? What will buying from you really do to benefit this person? Save them time? Earn them money? Make them look good with the girls? Write each of the 3 points onto the Map.

Step 3: Finally you should write at least 3 Evidence descriptions for each of the Points. Evidence can be in the form of statistics, examples, quotes from experts or even a simple story that illustrates the point. Choose anything that validates your claim and that gives your listener an emotional reason to want to learn more about your product or service. Have some fun with this! The more fun you have in telling about your business, the more likely you are to connect with your audience and to win their business.

The Most Common Reason for Failure

Crafting a good message will give you an invaluable tool for your business. Too many entrepreneurs spend all their time perfecting their technology, but forget to do even the most basic work on creating their message. In my experience this is one of the most common reasons for failure.  Invest time into your Message Map.

Practice Makes Perfect

Also remember to practice. This sounds like stupid advice, but is often forgotten. Only through practicing the delivery of your message will you get better. I have competed in and won several elevator pitch contests. I wrote my pitch, then I re-wrote it about a dozen times until I felt it was perfect. I practiced on friends, family, colleagues and even strangers. I kept re-writing until it got better and better (also shorter and shorter!). Pay as much attention to this as you do to your technology or products and I assure you that you will see huge improvements in your sales and pitching efforts.

Example of Message Map: 

We can help!

Want some help in creating a message map for your business? Contact us today.

Quickminds turns boring presenters into powerful communicators by using some of the world’s most cutting-edge, unique, innovative and inspiring techniques. Visit www.quickminds.net

What’s Wrong with Positive Thinking?

image-source: liveandlovework.com

Whenever I talk so enthusiastically about entrepreneurship, a few people really feel the need to correct me. They say that positive thinking is naïve, oversimplified and at best just a placebo. The serious pessimists love to point out that nothing so simple as positive thinking can be true. Continue reading What’s Wrong with Positive Thinking?

Off The Beaten Path

Over the last year I have been working on a project funded by the European Investment Bank to help young entrepreneurs in the occupied territories in Palestine. The project has been an amazing learning experience for me. Sometimes you have to move outside your comfort zone and beyond your normal pathways in order to discover new parts of the planet and new sides of yourself. The photo is from the Technical University of Hebron and was taken in December 2011. What impressed me most about this group was their eagerness to learn and their insightful questions. Rather than being focused on the hopelessness of the situation in their region, these brave young entrepreneurs were searching for opportunities and seeking solutions to problems.

This is true entrepreneurship at its best. Becoming an entrepreneur means taking responsibility for your life and taking action to make good things happen.

Spiderman’s Vulnerability


Whether you are standing onstage in an auditorium speaking to an audience of 1000 or meeting a new client for the very first time, you will not succeed in influencing others unless you are able to connect with them first. Connection is absolutely essential to communication, especially if the message is important to you and to your audience. Connection is absolutely essential if you are going to persuade and to influence others.

So many leaders and entrepreneurs understand this point and yet as soon as they open their mouths, they forget the basics. Connection comes first, then communication. Only after deep communication is persuasion possible. But how do great speakers connect with their audiences?

One of the ways is through showing vulnerability. In a fantastic TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown explains that vulnerability is essential to us connecting as human beings.  Without vulnerability, we cease to be perceived as human.

As a teenage boy I loved reading superhero comics. Having supernatural powers is a great fantasy. All superheroes had great strengths, but they all had their weaknesses as well. Superman was powerful, except when he was around the metal Kryptonite. The big green Hulk was stronger than anyone, but he had a big heart and weakness for children (and babes of course).  My all-time favorite comic book character was always Spiderman. Spidey was a teenage boy who was able to do amazing athletic stunts, but he also was constantly plagued with doubt and insecurity. He didn’t choose to be a hero. A radioactive spider bit him and then fate would never leave him alone. His greatest vulnerability was his self-doubt and every episode was really about him trying to overcome this trait. It was the internal struggles rather than the external struggles that defined his defeats and his victories. Without being vulnerable, then superheroes are not interesting. By being vulnerable they reflect our own lives. The more they show us their weakness, the greater their victories and the more we connect with them.

Such is also true with great communication. Without vulnerability, there is less likelihood of connection. Connection is a result of Authenticity and authentic speakers connect and influence. How authentic are you as a speaker? Do you allow your audience see the real you and your own vulnerabilities? What can you do to connect more deeply with your audiences?

Want to learn how to communicate better with your customers? We can help. Contact me at Quickminds (www.quickminds.net) and schedule a meeting with us.

p.s., Thanks to Annicken Rød, Culture Evangelist at Cisco for the inspiration for this blog post.

5 Key Skills for Successful Serial Entrepreneurs

I just finished leading a 3-day workshop in Toulouse, France for 15 entrepreneurs from the incubators and technology centres of the European Space Agency. Today I have been asking myself questions about what the key skills are that these entrepreneurs will need to develop in order to succeed.

Success can be measured in many ways, but my goal has been to teach them to become serial entrepreneurs – persons who are capable of creating not just one startup business, but capable of starting many healthy businesses throughout their careers.

Becoming a good serial entrepreneur involves learning the ability to do the following:

  1. Serial Entrepreneurs see opportunity. Opportunities arise where there are problems or where there are inefficiencies. While corporate employees tend to focus on resources, good entrepreneurs tend to focus on opportunities. When an employee encounters a problem within an organization, they most often try to figure out how to navigate around it. An entrepreneur, however, sees this as an opportunity to solve the problem and thereby to create a sellable product or service. Every problem is good news and an opportunity to a serial entrepreneur.
  2. Serial Entrepreneurs create and communicate a clear vision. A clear vision is key. Without it an entrepreneur ends up being vague and uncertain about how to go forward to create a solution or to organize the team that is necessary for success. A simple and magical thing happens when an entrepreneur creates a clear vision, commits to making it happen and then communicates it to the world.
  3. Serial Entrepreneurs are able to attract great people to work with them. Many entrepreneurs never get past this point. They work hard, but they mostly work alone. Their ventures seldom grow large and are limited by the fact that they are neither team players nor good leaders. Hire people who are smarter than you. Hire people that almost scare you because they are so capable. Only then will you raise the level of your company to new levels and ensure long-term success. Earn their trust, give them full responsibility and then get out of their way so they can make your company into a success.
  4. Serial Entrepreneurs are able to raise capital or to obtain whatever resources are necessary. Almost all good business ideas will need capital at some point. Without capital, growth takes longer. With capital, a company can often move quicker and take advantage of windows of opportunity that appear. Capital is like fertilizer for plants. Organic growth is always an option, but sometimes there are faster and better ways to stimulate rapid growth.
  5. Serial Entrepreneurs remain flexible, adapting to changes without abandoning their vision. As we all know so well, shit happens. One of the only constants in life is change. Being a successful serial entrepreneur involves developing the ability to stay flexible in the face of the winds of change, without losing sight of their vision.

Thanks to Roop Chandwani (www.aggiopartners.com) and Nico Goulet (www.adaravp.com) for inspiration for this article.

A Three Minute Course in LEADERSHIP

Whether you are creating a business or creating an amazing life, you can benefit from thinking like an entrepreneur and by taking leadership.

Unfortunately, some of the most fundamental assumptions that we make about leadership may be wrong or over-glorified.  A leader is just a lonely nutcase without followers. The first followers, not the leader, are the ones who take the greatest risk yet get the least praise and recognition. The first followers are the ones that teach other followers how to follow. How often do discussions about leading fail to discuss how to follow?

One of my brilliant entrepreneur-coaching clients sent me a link to the following 3-minute video by Derek Sivers about How to Start a Movement. Watch this video and ask yourself:  What are the areas of my career or life where I am truly taking leadership? How can I nurture my followers and treat them like equals?

Want to learn more about entrepreneurial thinking and leadership? Then sign-up for one of my workshops or courses. Even better, join me for the Oslo Leadership Event (May 27-29, 2011 in Oslo).  There I will hold a talk entitled: Dare to Dream – the Entrepreneurial Mindset. If you attend and are one of my blog readers, please come and introduce yourself to me!

Leadership lessons from the Dancing Guy

Thanks to Erlend Bakke. Check out his amazing360 photography tools at: http://www.3sixty.no/

DARING TO DREAM – The Entrepreneur Mindset

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” — Michelangelo Buonarroti

I will never forget the night that it really hit me. I didn’t sleep once during the 6 hours that I tossed and turned in bed. I could barely keep my eyes closed. My brain was racing at breakneck speed with plans and ideas and visions of a future that was so bright and vibrant that I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. I had just figured out that I really could succeed as an entrepreneur.

Earlier that day I had a dialogue with fellow BlueSky Software founder Jørgen Lien. He insisted that we had a shot… a real shot at busting open a segment of a large and growing software market, and in doing so a shot at creating a wildly-successful software company. This was my first technology startup. Although I had seen the possibility, I never really believed in it.  Before then. During that night it finally hit me.

20 years later and my dream is still alive, vibrant, bright and part of my everyday reality. BlueSky succeeded in busting open that market and went on later (without me) to be acquired by Macromedia/Adobe. Two other tech startups I did went well and are still flying high. I have worked closely with hundreds of talented entrepreneurs since then and yet I still have that moment in my mind.

For me, the biggest excitement was never about the riches and the wealth. It was not about fame and notoriety. Most of all, it was the realization that I could create.

The process of creation that an entrepreneur can experience is amazing. One minute you sit there with two empty hands and a head full of ideas. In the next moment your thoughts have been converted to real things and you have your hands full of value and new opportunity. It is like modern day alchemy – the ability to turn common objects into gold.

Three weeks from now I will be one of the keynote speakers at the Oslo Leadership Event (Fornebu Arena, May 27-29, 2011). I will use the opportunity to share some stories from my experiences as an entrepreneur. There have been a lot of crazy moments, but most of all I will use this opportunity to encourage everyone to think like an entrepreneur.

The Entrepreneur Mindset
Whether you want to create a business, or lead a sports team, or teach a classroom of students, sail alone around the world, become a master yoga instructor or just simply get the most out of today… it all starts by DARING TO DREAM. Dream big. Dream wild. Dream like you did when you were a kid. You would be amazed at what is really possible.

If you want to learn more about visualization tools or how to accelerate your business, then contact me or join one of my seminars. If you are going to attend the Oslo Leadership Event, then please come up and introduce yourself to me and share your dreams with me as well!

 

iPad Changes the Game for Nerdy Guys

iPad Boys & their ToysBoys and their iPad Toys

A few months ago I was on a weekend cabin trip get-away with a bunch of guys and I noticed something different that happened. Three of the guys brought their iPads and if this had been a trip with the girls along, then there would have been instant protests and complaints about spending the weekend online. But since it was just a boy’s weekend, then playing with electronic toys was perfectly acceptable behavior. OK, so were burping, farting and authentic expressions of profanity, but there is a reason why the guys have to get away from time to time. What was different was the use of iPads in this social situation. They became a natural part of the discussions and the activities. In the middle of a conversation, someone would pick up an iPad, lookup a fact, a quote or a definition on Google or YouTube and then share it with the others. We debated European history details but Wikipedia got the final say. The format of the iPad (and the little table mount cover) made it easy for the other 5 guys to crowd around the pad to watch a funny YouTube video (extreme base jumping & surfing monster waves), watch a music video or to just look at photos from a recent trip to Mexico. With 4 iPads and 8 guys it almost ended up being like a competition. Not dualing banjos, but dualing iPads. A creative entrepreneur game programmer should design something to capitalize on this.

How much time do you spend online alone?

Like most people I am sure that you spend lots of time online, but how much of this is really a group experience? Facebook. LinkedIn and Twitter all allow you to connect with groups, but most of the time you are sitting at your computer screen alone. How often have you been sitting together with a group of people where several are online and at the same time all are participating in an interesting group discussion? My wife says that men cannot do two things at once, but here I must protest. We men can handle our gadgets and still follow a conversation. So there! Finally we have found a social justification for nerdy male behavior!

A new online use – GroupSurfing

When was the last time you surfed the internet with a group? Call it a GroupSurf. I have used devices like an AppleTV to surf the internet while watching TV, but this is different. With multiple people surfing the internet at the same time and all contributing to a live group discussion, I think this is a new kind of internet use. Do you know about any applications that are designed for this type of experience? If so, I would like to hear from you. Leave a comment below. If you are a programmer and have an application to promote that works like this, please contact me.

Understanding men by understanding their gadgets

In the book Boys and Their Toys, author Bill Adler explains that men use toys to assert their independence and freedom, relieve stress, connect to their lost childhood, and even express their nurturing side (without having to admit it). OK, “nurturing” might be taking this a bit too far, but just face it. We men are different and how we use our iPads will also be different. Next time you go to a party, take along your iPad along and don’t be ashamed to whip it out in front of everyone. You might be surprised at how much fun you have and what sort of a positive experience you create (at least with the guys).

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time?

Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.com , www.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com. Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

www.Voiceable.ai – Your voice is your most powerful communication tool