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Zen in the Art of the Elevator Pitch

A touch of Zen?
What has an elevator pitch got to do with Zen?  Well good presentation is all about learning to let go of your inhibitions and achieving absolute focus on the objective by keeping things simple, eliminating all the distracting detail along with the bad communication habits you might have.  So take the Zen approach to pitching.   Penny Jackson and I put together some communication exercises and questions for entrepreneurs, start ups and mobile developers to workshop the "pitch" topic at Over The Air 10 some 4 months ago.  We did the workshop version back on September 11 (see handout below).  Here's our blog version.

What is an elevator pitch?
Well, the Wikipedia definition says:

"An elevator pitch or elevator speech is an overview of a product, service, person, group or organization, or project and is often a part of a fundraising, marketing communications, brand, or public relations program.  The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver an elevator pitch in ...


Successful presentations? - go back to basics

Some of us of a certain age come from a time when presentations weren't created directly on the PC (or Mac) with PowerPoint (or Keynote), or with cool new online tools like Prezi.  Back then before laptop PCs and low cost flash drives, if there was plenty of money in the marketing budget, and the presentation was really important you might create photographic slides, but usually it was paper on a flip chart stand, or more likely foils and an overhead projector (and you could write your notes alongside on those cardboard frames - oops, definitely showing my age!).   With all of these approaches, you would sit down and write the presentation first, and then transcribe the final version to the presentation medium.  These days it's just too easy to go straight in to the technology, because of the ease of shifting things around and making corrections as you go.  I regularly get seduced in to diving in to the detail, opening PowerPoint and starting at slide 1, when I should be taking a mental step back and going back to basics.

I've blogged before that my favourite book on this topic Is Presentations Plus by David A. Peoples from 1988.  David was a ...

Does a picture paint a thousand words?

I've been spending a lot of time in the last few weeks thinking about the basics of presentations combined with how you get the positioning and messaging for your product right.  To help I've been reading Jack Trout's In Search of the Obvious, a marketing book which is all about making sure you focus your strategy on what is simple and obvious rather than clever and ingenious.  We are bombarded by clever and entertaining advertising these days, but does it really sell the product?  I'll do a review of the book here shortly, but it's good.

So two things jumped out at me this week.  The first was a section in Trout's book about the proverb "A picture paints a thousand words".  The second was a post highlighted to me by @solobasssteve  from Mike Smith - "Narrative is important in technical presentations".  It reminded me telling a story is important in any presentation.  Trout, on page 129-131 of the book suggests that actually, the ear is more important than the eye in picking up the message, and that this saying from Confucius is a popular but misguided preconception most of us, particularly in marketing, have.  He rightly points out ...

Customer service snippets

For some reason my public photos loaded to Flickr weren't appearing in tag searches or RSS feeds from Flickr. I posted a question on the forums and community member wooble explained that my account was set as safe but NIPSA (Not In Public Site Areas), probably because it had been classified before they changed their system a while back. He suggested I correctly mark some of my content as screenshots (because they don't want those to show up in general photo searches) and request Flickr to review my account. I did that and requested a review. I got an automated reply from customer service saying they would hope to respond within 4 days. That's OK, but within 4 minutes I got a mail from Terrance on Flickr customer support who had reviewed my account, and changed me to Public and Safe. Excellent. I was a big Flickr fan before, but now I'm even more impressed.

My friend Alan Ward is about to replace his rusty Mercedes with a new one. He was attending a funeral yesterday in Golders Green, arrived early and had an hour to kill, so headed down the high street with his wife Sally to find a place for a cup of tea. He spotted a Mercedes showroom and went in for a browse. He explained to the sales guy that he was in the market to buy, but definitely wouldn't be buying from this dealership as he lives near Cambridge. In his preamble he mentioned they were really looking for tea, and just dropped in by chance. The sales guy made them at home, gave them the tea, let them have a good look around at the various models, answered questions. This contrasts with experiences Alan had when he was buying before, when BMW salesman weren't interested unless they had the chance of making a sale. He was pro Mercedes and anti BMW before yesterday, but now the brand loyalty has been made stronger. He's also spreading the word when he tells this story.

It just reminded me of the value of going the extra mile and exceeding expectations.


Guy Kawasaki on innovation - live and for free

Microsoft are hosting a 5 day Small Business Summit at Redmond from March 19 onwards. Forget the airfare, I think you should make time and attend. It's free, but more importantly, you won't need to travel and you can pick and chose which presentations you want to listen to. All of the sessions are available online. Of course it's all Pacific Standard Time, so it won't even take much time out of your working day, although it might ruin a few evenings. It's obviously aimed at an American audience, but a number of the presentations look useful.

Guy Kawasaki Art of Innovation MS SB+

At the very least you should attend Guy Kawasaki's first day presentation on the Art of Innovation. If you don't know Guy, you should. I follow his 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint, and have read his "The Art of the Start". His session is described in the programme as follows:

"Entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author Guy Kawasaki explains why it's essential to innovate"”and how to do it. Based on his book Rules for Revolutionaries, Guy's presentation will lay out the strategic steps to create new products and services. You'll come away with a renewed commitment to the innovation mindset that fuelled your early days in business. The author of eight books, including The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way, Guy is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm, and a columnist for"

Don't tell too many of your friends. Online places are limited, and I'll be really upset if somebody pinches my seat.

Watch the first few minutes of this to give you a taster, or spend 40 minutes and hear "The Art of the Start":

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Who said this about customers?

Thanks to AdventNet, and Vinnie, who triggered Dennis to post this quotation.  I remember the first time I saw it, written on a battered piece of paper, in a run down coffee shop in Georgetown, Guyana (well, most of Georgetown is pretty run down, but Guyana is a great place to visit - a great cocktail of South American rainforests mixed with West Indian culture, but that's another story).  The message - simple, but so important:
    • A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
    • He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
    • He is not an interruption in our work - he is the purpose of it.
    • We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.
You can find some more of the great man's quote here.

New Small Business Wiki

I'm a great fan of Wiki technologyAnita Campbell tipped me off to a new wiki resource aimed at Small Business, where she is a major contributor.  The site is owned and operated by Rex Hammock of Hammock Publishing, and you can get an explanation of the site's purpose, history and Rex's objectives here .  There's a lot of useful material there, and it will obviously grow and develop with the community of small business contributors that are already on board.  It's well worth checking out. 

Some more Presentation Zen

There are two good pieces you should read on Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen.  The first is some excellent advice on how to keep cool when under fire in a presentation.  He says:
"Doing our homework and anticipating questions or "push-back" is crucial. But when the unexpected does happen, good general advice is to maintain our cool. Passion and enthusiasm are great, but displaying frustration or anger with an audience member rarely helps the situation; it usually makes things far worse. Keeping our own emotional response in check and displaying as much grace as we can is paramount."
The article has some great links and suggested reading.  The second offers advice on writing for non-writers and discusses proper handouts for presentations - not just the PowerPoint slides printed 6 to a page.  Both are well worth adding to your reading list.
Update:  I just found this excellent article I missed from back in November 2005 which talks about the Zen aesthetic and contrasts the presentations styles of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs - excellent!  

Enthusiam, Tom Peters and Selling

"Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm."

Help with the dreaded Cold Calling

Cold CallingFor most people in business the toughest part of finding new business is cold calling, and that includes seasoned (don't I mean old?) sales professionals. I screwed up on one yesterday where I temporarily forgot the cardinal rule, which is to always put yourself in the other guys/gals shoes. It always helps to prepare and take advice. Here is a good article on the topic from Business 2.0 magazine, and another one from