Tag Archives: entrepreneur

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

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.

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!

 

VCs are from Mars, Entrepreneurs are from Venus

John Gray’s book Men are from Mars has the subtitle ”The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex”.  To some entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists might as well be the opposite sex. Many entrepreneurs don’t really understand them very well. In a good blog post by ex-VC and VentureBeat writer Tom Tzach, he offers 4 good tips to entrepreneurs. Here are my comments to his tips:

1. It’s a numbers game. Expect casualties.
Tzach reminds us that VCs get a huge number of requests for their time and money. If you are an entrepreneur seeking capital (especially if this is your first time), then you will have to play the numbers. You might need to pitch to 50 in order to find 3 who are truly interested. You might need 9 who are truly interested before you find one who will give you the funds.  Just like sales, it is a pure numbers game and the odds are not great, especially in today’s market where many investors are (un-admitably) scared.

I was at a venture meeting in Lisbon a few weeks ago and talked to one of the really classy European VCs (Diana Saraceni from 360 Capital Partners in Milan). She said that even though they have only 4 partners at her firm, they received 1202 business plans last year. They held 354 meetings with entrepreneurs and closed 6 new deals. If you are one of the 1202 then be prepared for a rejection. It is not personal. It only means that there are other (better?) deals out there ahead of you in the queue.

Tzach writes that in the US less than 2% of entrepreneurs pitching get funding, and that the average time for the process takes from 9 to 12 months. Don’t be discouraged, just plan to work hard.

2. Develop a VC pitching strategy
You will certainly need a strategy or else you will just end up shooting at any animal in the jungle that moves. Tzach recommends that you develop key parameters (like history, relevance of their portfolio, location, etc.) and then divide the prospective VCs into ranked groups. Start with those that are least likely to invest so that you get some practice before you tackle the big boys. Plus, if you screw it up in the first meetings, it won’t kill you. I think you will experience that pitching is a huge (and fun) learning experience.

3. You need to play your cards right
I have always been a lousy card player because I tend to play out my cards without a longer-term game plan (OK, I have other redeeming skills). Tzach reminds entrepreneurs that the VC community is small and that VCs like to talk together a lot. Expect this, but be selective in how you handle and manage your communication. Negotiating with 2 different VCs at the same time is not an ideal situation. Try to work out your deal with one and then shop the same deal to others if you need to fill the offering. Remember that while term sheets are confidential, they will be around long after you are gone. Treat them with extreme professionalism and care. I have a consultant (who I pay with options or shares) who always helps me with term sheets. He has saved me huge amounts of money and some rather embarrassing mistakes.

4. Don’t seek funding under pressure
The best time to visit a banker is when you are not in need of a loan. The best time to start your fundraising work is long before you actually need the capital. Fundraising will take a long time. It is like selecting a wife – you should use a lot of time to get to know each other before you tie the knot. VCs are smart and they will sense it if you are under pressure, plus when you show them your cash-flow budgets and financial statements, they will quickly figure out your predicament. Plan ahead.

Just as 50% of all marriages end on the rocks, only about 10% of all VC investments actually pay respectable returns. Realize that this is the reality and plan your strategy accordingly. Good VCs can be fantastic partners who can help you (not only with capital, but also with lots of assistance) to grow your business much faster than on your own… But you have to play by their rules in order to get them on your team.

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.comwww.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.

 

Inspiration – What is your calling?

I believe that we all have something special to offer this world. No matter who you are… No matter what skills you possess or don’t possess, you have something special to contribute. Scientists have not yet succeeded with cloning a person. Each one of us really is unique. Totally unique. No two are alike, and therefore we each have something unique to offer this world.

What is it that really motivates you? What is it in your life that gives you energy and inspiration? What gets you up early in the morning or keeps you awake sleepless all night? Finding true inspiration is crucial for an entrepreneur. If you are not inspired by your work, then it will be a constant struggle. If you are truly inspired, then it will be a breeze.

So how does your business and your work inspire you? If it does not, then what would it take to change this? There is a huge amount of energy available to you if you can tap into inspiration. Money and fame will only motivate you so far. Finding a bigger agenda and aligning your life values with your startup business are keys to accelerated and sustained success.

Do you agree with this? Then hire yourself a coach to challenge you for 3 months. See what kind of huge changes you are capable of.  I have seen some pretty amazing and inspiring things the last years of coaching entrepreneur­­s. How about you?

INSPIRATION
When you are inspired by some great
purpose, some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds;
Your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every
direction, and you find yourself in a new,
great and wonderful world.

Dormant forces, faculties and talents
become alive, and you discover yourself
to be a greater person by far than you
ever dreamed yourself to be. 
– Patanjali (1st century BC)

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.comwww.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.

Fall in Love with your Market, not with your Technology

Why do so many early-stage technology companies struggle? One reason is that they fall in love with their technology. Many entrepreneurs are great engineers or scientists. They create all sorts of inventions and smart new technologies. They write algorithms, file patents and then they march out to search for markets, calling ”Is there anyone out there who could use my new technology?”

Pushing technology is like pushing on a rope.

When I graduated from University I had two buddies. The first one loved IT technology. He always had the latest PC/phone/PDA/gadgets. He chose a career in the IT industry and was constantly searching for that next razor-edge, earth-shaking, game-changing technology wave.  The second buddy chose to sell coffee machines. We smirked at this. He said that in most large office buildings (at that time – early 1990s) they drank really bad coffee. He was right and he decided to change this. He focused on the problems of a specific market. He licensed and sold whatever technology was best. He made a fortune selling these coffee machines. We others are still searching for new technology, much like Don Quixote out looking for dragons to fight.

I do corporate turnarounds for early-stage companies that are struggling. I have lots of tricks, but the one that works most often is to get them to let go of the technology obsession and to tune their ears and eyes on the needs of a unique market.

It is really simple and easy.

Don’t fall in love with your technology. Fall in love with your market. Your market will last for many years. Technologies just come and go.

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.comwww.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.