Archive for the 'Presentations' Category

Best pitch advice ever: from my 10 year old

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When our children were young my wife and I agreed on a strategy: “Answer only the question they ask.”

Q: Where do babies come from?

A: The hospital.

Q: Does Santa Exist?

A: Yes. (Unless there is a follow up question on modes of existence, “zip it”.)

My wife was a lot more successful at this than I was (am).  But it has provided me with some powerful lessons.

We are all big fans of ‘The Far Side’ in our house.  After my son (then 10) asked me a question, and I was way too far down the road with way too much information, he interrupted me with a quote from The Far Side.  He said “Hey Dad… Blah, Blah, Blah, Ginger.”

It was hilarious and quite instructive.

When people ask me what I do, I try to remember Craig Wortmann’s advice: Keep it simple and clear; then shut up. 

Example: “We help X do Y by doing Z”.

If they don’t ask a follow up question remember: “Answer  only the question they ask.”

Brevity

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Today is the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address.   Lincoln was not the Keynote speaker and his address was only 271 words long.

If I asked you, who the keynote speaker was on that day I suspect you would not know.  Although I knew the speech was 2 hours long, I could not remember the speaker’s name (Edward Everett).   Even if I had,  it would have been for the length of the speech, not its substance.  How many times does this happen during an entrepreneur’s pitch?

Although I know that garrulous does not always equal gregarious I have a hard time remembering it.  And when I forget, I too suffer the fate of Edward Everett.  In the end, people walk away confused, exhausted or irritated.  Length does not translate into depth, and the goal is to capture an audience’s interest not hold it hostage.

In John Mayer’s song ‘Gravity’ he says “twice as much ain’t twice as good…” and I confess that I hear those words in my head when I am in some conversations or presentations.  When I am lucky, it happens when I am doing all the talking and it serves to get me to be quiet and listen.

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The best advice I have ever gotten on this challenge is from Tom Skerritt’s character in “A River Runs Through it”.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4php_B1LQiM .  If you read Norman MacLean’s story on which this movie is based, you know he lived it (it’s only 100 pages long).

Remember: Try to make what you say or write shorter and have the humility to know that your words are not ends in themselves.


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Dan Clark

Dan Clark

Principal of Bowline Consulting, process designer/fixer, wireless telecom veteran, addicted pick up soccer player, fly fisher, backpacker, beer brewer, guitar player, choir singer, recovering bag piper

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