Some time ago I was asked to be a judge for a StartUp Weekend event. A Startup Weekend is a fast-paced, (two and a half days) where teams come together and spend 54 hours mapping out a business idea– well enough to present it to a panel of judges by the end of day Sunday.
The goal is to help entrepreneurs move fast from conception to execution. This organization has helped launch thousands of startups across the world and has matched great ideas with the resources and brainpower needed to grow a company and bring those dreams to fruition.
As I sat with my fellow judges that Sunday evening, I was excited to learn what the teams had cooked up over the weekend and which solutions we, the judges, would choose to help move forward. (The winner of the weekend moves to the next round of competition [regional] and moves up the ladder towards potential funding and support.)
There were five teams presenting that night– and as we listened to their five-minute presentations and then participated in five minutes of Q & A– I couldn’t help but wonder how many presenters leave “money on the table” simply because they CANNOT engage with their audience.
Some of the ideas presented were simply too early in their development. Others seemed to have potential, but the presenter was not able to communicate this potential effectively to the audience. The speaker was not able to make the judges care. They did not peak our curiosity or achieve an emotional connection, and thus, we did not vote for their idea.
Most speakers focused on their product and the features of the product, but they failed to state the overall idea. Why was this idea going to be a positive impact in the world? After all, startups bring solutions– sometimes disruptive solutions– to existing or future problems. A speaker while pitching their idea, needs to make that problem, that need, very prominent at the onset of their presentation. Almost enabling the audience to connect with the “emotional gap” of not having that problem resolved– and from there, offer a solution.
Needless to say, the winner of the event was a company that is ready to grow, has a clear value proposition and was able to make the judges react. Was it my favorite product? No. But were they the ones that engaged with us and the audience? Yes!
So, how much money are you leaving on the table? How many opportunities are you failing to realize?
The next time you are standing in front of a group of people (whether you are selling your product, pitching your company or motivating your staff) keep these three tips in mind:
WHO ARE YOU SPEAKING TO? Make sure you know who your audience is and use the language, the humor and the terms that will resonate with them. (If you speak multiple languages, make sure you are using their language.)
WHY DO THEY CARE? Be very clear about why your audience will care about what you have to say. Tap into their emotions, make them see what’s in it for them.
WHAT IS YOUR MAIN IDEA? If I were to ask you before you take the stage, what is your main idea would you be able to answer it in one short sentence? If you can’t then you need CLARITY. Remember a confused customer never buys. If you want your audience to take action (buy your product, adopt your idea, follow you, hire you, work with you) you have to be very clear in your communication.