Tag Archives: 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

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.

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.