So many decks. Such poor results. That’s the fear of many, many founders and CEOs that head out to pitch investors, and there’s good reason for it.
In the course of my work I come across a lot of pitch decks, some of which are absolutely stunning, a few only need minor tweaks but most of which are kinda disappointing. And when I say disappointing, we’re talking in terms of meaningful content here, not the finer details of the graphic design or font selection.
I want you all to create better pitch decks. Killer pitch decks. Decks that knock potential investors off their feet and “stack the deck” (see what I did there?) in your favour, positioning you better to agree terms and take the pick of investors.
To do this, we need to take a step back, add some context and look at investment, investors and then the deck itself.
Note 1: There is SO much more to say about how to raise investment, how to calculate valuations, the different kinds of investor, how deals are structured, how to find good investors etc., but we just don’t have time to talk about that right now. Drop me a comment if you’re interested in any of those other specifics and we’ll see what we can do.
Note 2: I’m assuming y’all have an understanding of how pitch-decks are used.
Note 3: I’m also assuming you have a real business or an idea that’s been validated and you’re not a total dreamer. Send me a message if you’re not quite there yet and want to talk about validation for digital / physical products, services or whatever.
This part may come across a little negative. INVESTMENT IS NOT THE BE-ALL-AND-END-ALL all of a startup’s existence rather than, you know, building a sustainable business.
This is the point where I remind you that investment is only a tool to help you bring about a result, and that result ought to be accelerated growth and a striving for profitability. Don’t even get started on the valuation bubble that we’ve seen, especially in “The Valley”, and the stomach-churning gloating that sometimes comes with raising a round.
Raising a round should mean that it’s game time, the pressure is dialled up to 12 and the bright outdoors becomes a distant memory for a while. Somebody else has given you money. It’s not your money. Don’t let them down.
It’s not always smart to raise VC money, and it’s not always smart to do it right now. Raising capital clearly brings the advantages of a cash injection, increased growth potential, an expansion of your network and a solid source of advice, but it has downsides too.
Investors don’t necessarily share your vision for the business, for how it’s run or who runs it. Sure, they might do at the start of the relationship, but this is like a marriage…you’re in it for the long haul. Just remember that when your eyes glaze over with £££ or $$$ signs.
I’m assuming you’re going to raise, and that raising is the right thing to do for you, but don’t just assume that for yourself. Think about it.
Bootstrapping is cool. Raising investment is cool too. Just make sure your investment approach is aligned with your business goals and lifestyle objectives. Having done both, I’m not bashing either approach.
In general, if you’ve got as far as serious discussions (so…past the pitching stage), investors are really only interested in two things; economics and control. Economics refers to agreements on valuation, stock, term sheets and associated aspects. Control usually refers to decision making, veto power and board seats. Clearly much of this varies on the maturity of your business, but when it comes to negotiating, these will likely be the two pivot points, and much else is either a decoy or unwittingly immaterial. Investors reading this will probably disagree / deny, but maybe that’s all part of the game :)
You will also find a broad spread of investors and investment practices, running all the way from highly engaged mentors to sharks and amateurs to accelerators that offer tech, HR and administrative assistance.
It’s always worth looking at a firm’s previous investments, reading about their way of working and maybe even speaking to past recipients of investment before you make a decision.
What I’m really trying to get across is that not all cheques for £150k are equal.
Heading back to the original subject, in the context of your deck, this is important for at least two reasons:
1 — The better you know the landscape, the better chance you have of making a good decision with regard to a suitable investor.
2 — It can be helpful to change your deck slightly for different investors, placing a focus or emphasis on areas or data that you know (from your research) are likely to be of greater interest to them or play better into their specific areas of expertise.
Note 4: I’m using VC as a catch-all term for angels, accelerators, seed funds, mico-VCs, traditional VCs etc. etc. No need for a labelling or identity crisis just yet, but make sure you’ve researched the investor and their way of working / your suitability first. Probably not too smart to go pitching for seed money to an investor that is only interested in Series B onwards, right?
Thirdly, rules for your deck.
A couple of notes to remember with regard to the deck itself:
1- Content is king. Don’t sweat the font and colours to the detriment of the meat and bones. Of course, make sure your deck looks good and get a creative / graphics person to tidy it up if needs be, but DON’T CONFUSE THE REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF WITH THE TRIVIAL STUFF.
2- Less is more. Investors may see hundreds of decks a month, so keep yours short, visual and punchy. Please, NO LONG PARAGRAPHS, and try to limit each slide to addressing one idea / thought / subject.
3- The exact order of your slides can vary, but remember that an important part of creating a powerful deck is telling a story to which the logical conclusion is you receiving an offer of investment. What’s your story?
4- You want to take your audience on a journey and provoke an emotional response. As you write, remember that this isn’t a boring old FTSE 250 QA or compliance report…make them laugh, cry, open their cheque book, call their loved ones or throw you out the door.
Fourthly, the deck itself.
OK, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the slides in the deck. The slide order can vary, but the content needs to be broadly consistent with the following guidelines:
1- Explain who you are and what you’re doing.
This is your opportunity to use a sentence or two to capture the interest and imagination of your audience and explain your idea or business. What’s your mission? In terms of presentation, this can often be paired with your logo on the cover slide / first slide of the deck.
2- The problem.
Explain the problem that you’re going to solve, who it is a problem for and highlight the size of the issue. If nobody else cares, then why should an investor?
3- The solution.
How are you going to solve the problem? What makes your solution stand out and why is your solution better than the alternatives? It’s got to be compelling to both investor and user!
4- Your product.
Show some screenshots, renders, mock-ups or examples of your product. The objective here is to take the concept that you have just explained and make it real in the mind of your audience.
5- The market.
How large is the market you are seeking to address, how have you segmented it, is it growing and what percentage are you aiming to capture? Strive for a balance between ambition and realism. This is often very speculative stuff, but investors want to a) see how you think, b) test your market knowledge and c) evaluate your ability to see the big picture.
6- The competition.
Show some understanding of the competitive landscape. Who else is out there, what are they offering and how are you positioned in comparison to them? Folk often like to demonstrate this via a map, where the X and Y axis denote the two criteria that you believe to be most important to your customers.
7- Your customers.
Oft neglected, it’s really helpful to demonstrate an understanding of who your customers are (or at the very least who you think they are) and why. The more specific you can be in terms of demographics and targeting, the faster you will be in testing your assumptions AND you may well be able to keep your customer acquisition costs lower.
8- Progress or traction.
9 - Business model.
This part often isn’t really thought through very well. Try answering questions such as…How will you make money? How much will you make, by when? What’s the revenue model? How much will it cost to acquire a customer, and what’s their lifetime value?
This one is really, really important. Who’s on your team? What do they do, what have they done and why are they the right fit? You need to convince the prospective investor that you have the right people in place to deliver the goods, even if that means delivering something slightly different to what you first thought.
11- The raise.
How much money are you looking for and why? What are you going to do with it and what will you achieve? Again, optimism without naivety.
Remember, this isn’t your money. Strive for a balance between an ambitious assault on a market, technology or product, a willingness to try and fail fast and a respect for somebody else’s cash.
So there you have it…pitch decks. Well done for making it this far; it’s a long post. If your deck can answer the questions above to the satisfaction of an investor, you’re likely in a good place.
I really hope you feel better equipped to understand whether this is a good route for you right now, and I hope you’re able to create better decks as a result.
If you want to talk more, drop us a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be delighted to chat!
Just a quick one…
Am I the only person that’s noticed a really sharp decline in most people’s ability to concentrate. You know, to REALLY focus on something for more than a few moments?
I’ve seen it in myself too. A real need to discipline myself to ‘get my head down’ and concentrate on what I’m doing.
That focused attention is where the value is added. The deep though. The creativity. The brilliant ideas. The real work.
I’m worried that we’re becoming more and more distracted by social media, emails, trivial chats. I’m all for that stuff (right place / right time etc.), but I feel like it’s killing us.
People can’t work for 10mins without checking Reddit…are we always chasing the dopamine hits or titillation?
I don’t have a solution right now, other than self-control, but I’m worried.
Drop us an email at email@example.com if you want to know more about growing your business. We're based in Salisbury, Wiltshire but work anywhere in the UK, often in Bristol and London.
We don’t like to talk about weakness, do we? We struggle to admit our own failings and inability, and it’s damaging us as a business community.
If you’ve worked in a start-up (a real one) or led a business at a senior level (again, a real business), you’ll know that burn-out is a very real phenomenon.
What does it looks like?
So, you’re motivated, you’re driven to succeed, you want to impress, you hate failing. But the work keeps piling up; new assignments, previously unseen bugs to fix, new customers to support, and those sales need to be made. You’re under pressure from the board. Your burn rate is too high, so you’ve got cash-flow issues. Your marketing manager leaves.
What do you do? You dig in, because you’re a fighter. You double down and push even harder. You wake earlier and go to bed later. You eat less. You skip the gym and cancel those social appointments.
But it doesn’t end. It just keeps on getting harder. Work sucks more and more of your life away, and you, what do you do? You just keep on giving, don’t you? That’s who you are, and who you’ve become.
Slowly but surely, you start to hate it. Not the pressure and the stress, but the very work itself. What you once loved is killing you. You start to resent everything. Your boss. The customers. The product you’ve built. It feels like all is turning against you.
You stop being effective. You’re always tired, permanently grumpy and anti-social. Decisions come slowly, and they’re often the wrong calls too.
Soon, you’ve made enough mistakes to damage your reputation. You don’t have the respect and authority that you used to command. People start to second guess you more than ever.
Questions are being asked about your effectiveness. Behind closed doors, plans are being made and contingencies realised, but you probably don’t even care anymore.
Then it ends. It’s over. The dream has come crashing down around you in a frightening tidal-wave of poor leadership and lack of foresight. You’re done.
Does that sound familiar? All too familiar, perhaps.
As we often exude an air of confidence and calm, underneath it’s very often not the case. We’re collected and serene by necessity, rather than in reality.
So, what do we do?
Firstly, it’s always important to remember that work is NEVER more important than your health.
What use is a new product feature if the rest of your life has fallen apart? A few extra sales if you’re only there to see them on-boarded successfully from ICU?
We’re caught in this silly culture of glorifying excessive hours and insane schedules, without thinking about the long-term impact on us as individuals.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for hard work. Yup, all for it. I expect it. I live it. But I’m also a pragmatist. A realist.
What does that mean in reality? I always try to put people first.
We’re all physically and emotionally capable of dealing with stress, but it’s the chronic nature of this problem that makes it so damaging.
Secondly, it’s OK to ask for help. Some many issues could be averted if you just spoke up earlier, and spoke to the right person. It’s takes a little bit of humility and vulnerability but is eminently worth it.
As an aside, if you’re making real (personal / stress related) issues known and they’re NOT being addressed…you’ve got another problem. Top tip — leave that job. It’s not worth it.
If over time you develop more self-awareness, you’ll KNOW that you need a boss (or a board) that is willing to slow you down sometimes. It’s a weakness you likely can’t address all on your own, so outsource it.
Outsource your weaknesses. It’s so much more efficient than trying to change who you are.
Thirdly, you need to take REAL down-time.
Leave all the tech behind. Switch off from the emails, the Slack notifications, the conference calls and the SMS messages too.
You’ll need to disconnect for a few days, at the very least. “But how will the business survive?” I hear you ask. It will. Don’t worry. It’s bigger than you.
Go somewhere else and distract yourself. Surround yourself with family and friends, and reconnect with what’s really important in life.
Fourthly, think about how to avoid this happening again. Find somebody who you can be accountable too, and talk openly about any workload issues or problems you’re having. Meet regularly for a coffee / lunch / a chat. Nothing formal, but make it happen.
If you pick the right person, they’ll likely see the warning signs almost before you do. On that note, pick somebody who has the balls to speak up when they see a problem arising…
Fifthly, as a culture, we need to stop glamorising entrepreneurship. We need to stop pretending that we can all ‘do a Zucks’ and that our idea will be a $billion business overnight.
It’s a tough lifestyle and in reality, many people just aren’t cut out for it. Stop pretending. For most people, a ‘conventional’ job in a well-established business is exactly what they need AND where they’re most likely to succeed.
And to everyone else…keep being human. Keep talking. Keep taking time out. You’ll get there.
Reach out and have a chat if you'd like to know more about how to grow your business. We're a business advice firm in Salisbury, Wiltshire but we work globally.
As the world is saturated with examples of individuals that are credited with enormous business success (think Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, Larry Page etc.), it’s easy to think that all that they achieved was in fact a solo effort.
Far from it.
Outstanding business growth, innovation or change is rarely brought about by one person alone, and is almost always delivered by a strong team. While different leaders have varied views on how to build strong teams, here are some principles that have served me well over the years.
Hire for character
This is the underlying principle that guides nearly everything I’m going to say. You can’t escape the overwhelming importance of this approach.
The world is quickly moving past the foolish idea that qualification = ability or that certification = output. Businesses hire people to deliver results, and that’s what matters most.
If you’re building a team, hire people that you can trust. People that share the same work ethic. Sure, they need to be really smart too, but if you can’t work well with them and trust them to ‘do the right thing’ you’re going to struggle.
Just having great qualifications and skills won’t make anyone the right person.
Hire problem solvers
We want people to own their work and own the issues that arise from it. Ownership is so, so important in a small business or a startup. I can’t stress this enough. Employing somebody that’s always throwing up problems and never taking responsibility for and thinking laterally around challenges can be a real drain.
Look for those candidates who thrive in difficult situations.
Once again, small teams rely heavily on great communication. You need staff that communicate openly and freely with both their peers and with you.
There is nothing worse that a member of staff harbouring an issue or grudge for months on end and then catching you all out in an explosion of frustration. It’s bad for morale and reduces your ability to deliver.
External communication is also really important, be that in sales, marketing or customer service. People work with people and we need to be able to communicate quickly, concisely and helpfully.
Make sure you talk often. Be open. Listen. Take action.
Be willing to let go
I detest micro-management, and you don’t want to get me started on nano-management.
Having had a previous boss dictate our own emails (word-for-word) to me and the team over our shoulders, I have personal experience of micro-management. I don’t like it.
Hire great people. Be clear with them on their goals. Communicate regularly. Trust them to do their job and to do it well.
You can dive into the psychology of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to your hearts content, but whatever conclusion you come to, you need to reward hard work and excellence in whatever form is most effective for your staff and business.
Understand your people. Help them to succeed. Reward them when they do.
Don’t delay ‘those’ conversations
Sometimes it becomes clear that there is misalignment between a person and a role or even the business as a whole.
Don’t run away from those difficult conversations off for months on end. Do the individual in question a favour and think about how you can help, then go talk to them. Help them to understand the issue. Give them clear instruction, guidance and a second chance.
If this doesn’t work out, it’s time to help that person understand where their skills can be used best, even if that’s not in your business.
Always try to do what’s best for them and your team, and often that can take the shape of helping them to find a role in another organisation.
Remember, you are the boss
This isn't arrogance, this is making sure that you know who needs to take ultimate responsibility and ownership of direction, difficult decisions and failure.
I’ve been caught in the trap of letting a team member take ownership of what should have been an executive (my) responsibility, and it doesn’t end well. Confusion and misalignment of direction ensued.
You need to take ownership and be a good communicator too. Lead by example.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to grow your business, how to build high-performing teams and how to succeed as an organisation.
A large part of what we do involves talking to business owners, startup founders and executives. In doing so, we obtain some good insight into their businesses, their personal lives and (most importantly for us) the problems and challenges that they’re facing.
A common theme that runs true with nearly everyone we speak to is that of ‘not having enough time’.
Lack of time is often cited as the primary reason for issues such as lower rates of business growth, slower sales, business inefficiency, staff problems, poor communication, late delivery and more.
In our experience, time is very rarely to blame. Time management however, is a real problem.
Be clear about your goal
When addressing time management, I think it’s important to first take a step back and review your goal or goals.
What are you actually trying to achieve as an individual or organisation? What’s the objective in all of this? If you don’t know, you really ought to.
Being a busy fool is no fun.
Set a goal, and then assess all of your activity against it. Ask yourself ‘Is this taking me closer to or further from my goal?’. If it’s not taking you closer, should you really be doing it?
I recommend the G.O.S.T. process for identifying your goal and turning it into actionable steps.
Goal: What’s your measurable high-level business aim?
Objectives: What are the targets that you need to achieve to hit that goal?
Strategies: How are you going to achieve each objective?
Tactics: What are the concrete steps you’ll take to deliver each strategy?
Map this out with your team, and regularly check your workload against this guide. If you’re all busy doing work that doesn’t fit into any of these criteria, well…you’re due a conversation.
One of the most under-appreciated skills that any business leader can have is that of being self-aware. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is an incredibly useful way of dealing with time constraints.
How do you improve your self awareness? Just ask the people around you to tell you what they think you’re good at, and what they think you suck at.
Spend some time with your friends, family and colleagues, put them at ease, reassure them that there will be no ramifications if they’re honest (!!), implore them to give you the truth and listen to what they have to say.
Hopefully that process will rid you of any competency illusions, it might enlighten you as to some hidden strengths and can be combined with your own common-sense appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses.
Are you spending 10hrs a week wrestling with spreadsheets when you know you’re really good at negotiating deals or motivating a team?
Focus on your strengths and delegate or outsource your weaknesses.
I don’t really believe in the modern business narrative that tells us we can all be good at everything and that we ought to focus a lot of energy on improving our weaknesses. We don’t have time for that. Get an expert. Double-down where you’re strong.
Where do you deliver real value?
Part of the process of understanding your strengths and weaknesses is to understand where you deliver real value. The value that you get paid for delivering. The value that solves real problems.
If you’re an author, for example, it’s unlikely that you deliver real value in spending hours every day answering emails. Your value is to be found in the deep, creative writing process.
We've all been suckered into thinking that all of our busyness = value delivery, but it really doesn’t.
Work out where you add real value, and make that your priority each day. Everything else comes second.
Learn to say no
Now this one can be tricky. Most leaders are either in a corporate structure that incessantly demands more and more from each of us OR they’re entrepreneurs, who are by definition somewhat addicted to work.
It really isn't easy to say no to work, but sometimes you just have to. It can be best for you and the business to say no.
If you are clear on both your goals and your strengths and weaknesses, you now have a solid platform for assessing new demands on your time.
Does this work take you closer to the goal? Are you the best person for the task?
Organise your days and weeks better
Without trying to get too simple with it all, maybe you just need a daily to-do list and a weekly progress meeting?
I like to start each day with a to-do list. What do I need to achieve today to take me closer to the goal? To-do lists are normally made up of my Tactics that fit under each Strategy.
Holding yourself and others accountable to each other for progress via a weekly team meeting is a good idea and normally improves communication too.
I recommend having one person who ‘runs’ the meeting to a set agenda, and pushing through topics in efficient fashion. The point is to facilitate progress, not to chat meaninglessly about ‘stuff’ for 30 mins. Be fast. Be clear. Be brutal where necessary.
Stop glorifying being busy. Be productive.
Finally, being busy isn't cool. Being productive is. Stop making yourself feel better by telling others about how busy you are. We’re all busy. When you’re on Facebook 40 times per day but also whining about your ‘insane’ workload, I’m not really interested.
If you'd like to know more about how we can help your business to grow, drop us a line at email@example.com - we'd love to talk.
When you first start out in a new job or a new venture, days and moments are characterised by enthusiasm, the buzz of progress, the sweet aura of mental stimulation and success.
But it vanishes ever so quickly, doesn’t it?
We get comfortable. We establish routines. We slow our pace. We lose that hunger. That powerful hunger.
Don’t. Stay hungry.
Remind yourself of why you started, and fix your sights on the goal. Maybe you’ve forgotten what that goal was. That’s OK; take a day to separate yourself from the hubbub of your regular movements and go back to basics. Why are you doing this
Many employees speak with jealous tones of those in self-employment or at the top of a business structure or start-up. But it’s harder than they think. Having a boss does have advantages; the accountability, the help in time of need, the advice, the drive and expectation.
When things get comfortable, when you’re not working to put food on the table, it’s easy to take your foot off the loud pedal.
But in doing so, you’ll make so much less progress. You’ll live to regret what you COULD have achieved. What you could have been. What you could have done for others.
You only have one chance.
Don’t slow down. Stay hungry.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had so many conversations about networking, business relationships, confidence and communication.
So many people are lost in a muddy world of confusion, and it’s not getting any better.
It’s so easy to dive into the detail of ‘how to’ X,Y or Z and try to create a foolproof or analytical model for success in relationships or networking. I don’t think there is one.
Humans are all so different, and react in many and varying manners to each other and the environment around them. We also have different responses on different days (and sometimes on the same day) based on how we feel and what’s going on around us.
My advice to anyone struggling with this is to keep trying to just…be human.
Throw away the guise of ‘professionalism’ and just…be human.
Be a real person. Be you. The real you.
Talk to people. Say hi. Ask questions, listen, respond, laugh, relax.
Don’t worry about finding sales, what others think, your image or who you’re talking to.
Businesses are built on friendship. Friendship is built on honesty and value.
Be the real Angela, Paul, Sam or Jo. Just talk.
Everyone loves content marketing, or at least that’s the impression you get.
Since Hubspot exploded onto the scene and revolutionised inbound marketing, creating content has been an ever growing priority for businesses and individuals.
Create content and the world will come knocking at your door, they all seem to say. Create content to grow your business. A couple of YouTube videos and you’re a global superstar, right?
But it’s not easy. Does it even work as advertised, or at all?
Here’s what you need to remember…
You have to be persistent.
I was going to write ‘stay patient’, but that’s too passive. Be persistent. Keep working, keep listening, keep reading, keep learning, keep creating great content.
Successful content creators haven’t achieved their success overnight. It takes time. And work.
Look at Casey Neistat. He is one of the rising stars of YouTube, but it’s taken him YEARS of great content creation to get to where he is today.
Don’t just ‘create.
It’s too easy to just write content based on ideas that spring to mind one afternoon, but doesn’t target a specific audience and their needs. Spontaneity can be a good thing, but it needs to have a focus.
Get to know your audience better, and write with them in mind. Don’t write for you, but for them.
Think about building some buyer personas to get to know your audience better. Follow the link to download a free template, and ensure you put real thought into understanding your audience and their needs.
Your content needs to deliver value, and make a connection.
Blogging isn't enough.
Blogging is definitely a good place to start, but if you want to grow your business with content or inbound marketing, you’ll need to do more. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what else you can be doing…
Blogging is only one part of an inbound strategy, and it’s only one facet of a content plan. What other types of content can you produce?
Content is king, but distribution is queen.
So, we have established that they won’t just come to you if you have good content.
If often feels like you’re writing, creating, building and then sending your blood, sweat and tears into a black hole. In many ways, you are.
Your content is worth little if nobody reads it, particularly if nobody that’s interested reads it.
How do you get your content in front of the right people? Here are a couple of distribution options, each of which deserve an article on how to best exploit:
Ideally, you build a relationship, based on a value exchange, that ultimately ends up in a monetary transaction.
Make sure that you have a good Call to Action for each piece of content, asking your readers / viewers to get in contact, sign-up, learn more, book a consultation, like, comment or share your piece etc.
Try different CTAs for different types of content to discover what works; not every platform or reader will respond in the same way.
Hopefully some of this will resonate with you, and open your eyes to the challenges of building your business through inbound and content marketing.
I’ve certainly learnt the hard way, and I’d love to save you that pain.
Apparently, public speaking is considered to be THE number one fear of the average person, somehow managing to beat death itself into second place. Jerry Seinfeld commented that this means that, at a funeral…“the average person would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!”
That’s crazy. It’s a powerful tool for developing credibility and a strong brand, making it a skill that is absolutely worth pursuing.
Here are a few tips to help you with public speaking and presentation.
Start small. Stay small.
Don’t start with an audience of 1000 of the brightest minds in the Northern Hemisphere. Aim for something a little more local or low-key. A school or college is often a great place to cut your public speaking teeth.
Secondly, rather than writing an enormous tome of a speech, try to think in terms of key points.
Put some structure in place so that your talk has a natural flow through these points, all the way from introduction through content and to a conclusion.
Create bullet points and key memorable items to guide you through.
Having a minimalistic approach to the speech also allows you to focus on engaging the audience, making eye contact, smiling and proving that you’re actually a human.
Whatever you do, don’t read you talk from your laptop, a slide deck or printer copy. That’s public reading, not public speaking.
There is nothing wrong with going for a walk, standing in your dining room or presenting to your spouse beforehand. Some constructive feedback will allow you to polish those minor points before you take to the platform.
Having a natural flow to your talk or presentation should allow you to easily ‘get into the way of it’ and move seamlessly between points.
Know your audience.
It’s always worth doing some research on your audience. Always be a glutton for context.
Knowing your audience not only helps you to deliver more value and connect better with them, but it also offers a psychological advantage in that you know that you know something about who you’re talking to.
Learning something about your audience eliminates some of the uncertainty.
Focus on connection.
It’s all too easy to think of public speaking or presenting as being a performance where it is all about you as an individual. It isn't.
Think about your audience, their needs and how you can deliver maximum value to them in the short period of time that you have. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
By moving the focus away from you and unto them, you take so much of the pressure away, you allow yourself to relax and you can make a better connection with your audience. Don’t worry about it. Do it.
Remember, the audience wants to receive value too, so that means that they want you to succeed! Unless you’re in the unfortunate position of speaking to a hostile audience…they’re on your side!
Finally, don’t be afraid to drop the pace down a notch or two. When you’re nervous, you tend to do two things, neither of which you should.
Firstly, you rush through the experience and speak far too fast. Just slow down and breathe. Speaking slowly can actually deliver a seriousness and thoughtfulness to your presentation that’s pretty valuable.
Secondly, you become scared of silences and fill them with ‘um’ or ‘err’, often without realising. This isn’t a good look. Don’t be afraid of moments of slight silence, which are much better than rushing or stuttering through your content. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can uses pauses and pacing to your own advantage and to amplify or emphasis certain points in your presentation.
We’ll take more in a later article about how to use timing, annunciation, engagement and structure to be more engaging and deliver more value to your audience.
Public speaking is a great way of building your business or brand!
Dunwiley offers business advice, coaching and strategy consulting to startups and small businesses. If you want to know how to grow your business, how to be more profitable or need another perspective, get in touch. We're based in Salisbury, Wiltshire but work in London, Hampshire and surrounding counties.
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We've been following Twitter for a few years now, and (as with nearly all businesses) we really want to see it succeed.
But they’re in a bad place right now; perhaps a worse place than ever before, without a clear path to recovery.
So the Q4 2015 results were released this week, to a reception that was overwhelmingly negative. Why?
Was revenue down? No. Had the losses increased? No.
It was all about users. Twitter has 320 million monthly active users, exactly the same number as the previous quarter.
Significantly, this was the first quarter where user numbers hadn’t grown and despite the overall stagnation, Twitter reportedly lost 1m users in its home country of the USA.
The results actually had positive elements to them, such as a 48% increase in revenue compared to the same quarter in 2014 and losses were down from $125m to $90m for the same three months last year.
So, financially, things have improved. But the market seemed to largely ignore this, as the overall user numbers are clearly more indicative of future earnings.
Shares fell by 10% upon release of the results, then recovered to an overall loss of 3%. Doesn’t sound like much, but when your market cap is around $9.8 billion, it’s kind of a big deal.
Senior team issues
Twitter seems to have serious issues with retaining its executives and senior members of staff.
Most recently, it was leaked that four senior staff were all going to be leaving simultaneously.
They were senior vice-president of engineering Alex Roetter, vice-president of global media Katie Jacobs Stanton, HR vice-president Skip Schipper and senior vice-president of product Kevin Weil.
CEO Jack Dorsey (more on him later) quickly moved to release a statement claiming that all four had decided to leave, and thanking them for their contributions to the business. But really, what are the chances of all four deciding to leave at exactly the same time, all for differing reasons? Hmm.
These four are only one small part of the executive departure, however. TechCrunch wrote an article that detailed some of the other departures over the last couple of years.
I’d say there is not only a user retention problem at Twitter, but an executive one too.
What is Twitter anyway?
I think one of the other problems facing Twitter is that of an identity crisis.
It’s clear from recent communications that even the leadership of the company aren’t sure what the product should actually be.
I’m sure they have a vision for the business, but I don’t think they’re clear on how to get there. If they are, they need to stop ‘suggesting’ things and actually execute on the roadmap. Get it done. At least that way the rest of the world could be convinced that the business actually knows what it’s doing and why.
In terms of specific product changes, Twitter is considering changing it’s historic 140 character limit in favour of…10,000 characters. That reverse chronological timeline might be going too.
But more importantly, Twitter (unlike Facebook) doesn’t seem to have been able to cement itself as an absolute necessity in the lives of most people.
I think this comes down to both the sense of social connection and the time taken to deliver value.
On Facebook, you’re connected instantly with friends and family, and can feel like you’re close to and can share with them in no time at all. Instant value.
On Twitter, you’re instantly stuck in a dark space of uncertainly, having no followers and just sending small messages into the abyss for a few weeks. Even then, what you can see and share seems so much more limited than on Facebook.
Perhaps it’s not fair to compare the two, but I feel the example that Facebook sets of delivering instant value and connection is not something to lose sight of as a social network.
I think Twitter is also one of the easiest social networks to ‘leave’. Leaving Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, for example, has the potential to be a much more painful process as there is far more to lose (memories and professional opportunities).
Recent changes have also been taking Twitter either closer to Facebook or LinkedIn, but I’m not sure those spaces are ones where Twitter will succeed at all. Competition is certainly stiff.
What about Jack?
So where does Jack Dorsey fit in all this? As CEO, he’s got to take responsibility for the business, but one can hardly help but muse over how much of the problems are actually his own.
You don’t have to dig too deep to find some fascinating stories into the history of Twitter, and more importantly into Jack.
Factors to consider; he’s the CEO of two very demanding businesses, he was fired as CEO of Twitter, then (reportedly) launched a rumour campaign to get himself back in.
He’s also reported to be a controlling micromanager with an obsession for detail, often criticised for perhaps trying too hard to style himself after Steve Jobs.
With all that said, however, he’s clearly an extremely talented and gifted individual. He founded Square, has been CEO of Twitter twice and is most certainly powerful visionary.
Can he put all of this mess right, however? Does he need to replace himself?
Sacca still believes
On another note, one of the most respected seed and Series A investors in Silicon Valley, Chris Sacca, still firmly believes in Twitter.
He’s a keen user of the platform and often talks about the product, business and staff in very favourable terms.
Chris Sacca’s opinion isn’t one to be taken lightly at all, but I do sometimes wonder whether his views are in any way skewed by his own admissions that both he (personally) and his fund (Lowercase Capital) own very significant amounts of Twitter stock.
My questions: is he leveraging his reputation to boost everyone else’s belief (and to some extent the valuation) and would he think differently about Twitter prospects if he owned no stock at all?
Twitter isn’t an easy nut to crack as a product, and with overall value falling by 53% since Jack Dorsey regained control, it’s not a great outlook right now.
What will become of it? Well, Jack could take the risk of forcing through a new product roadmap, with a new team, regardless of user opinion. I think it’s more likely, however, that we will see an acquisition of Twitter. A major player could buy Twitter, install new leadership and effective integrate a modified product into their own existing portfolio. Jack could even then focus entirely on Sqaure…
If the stock keeps falling, keep your eyes peeled.