Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Three Practical Tips to Make Your Pitches More Effective

Over the years I have coached many speakers and presenters. Some people simply need to put more work into refining the structure and the logic of their presentation, while others just need more practice. But there are also a few practical tips that can bring a very fast improvement to many pitches and presentations.

USE A CLICKER. Standing next to a laptop and pressing keys or giving instructions to another person are both distracting. They are distracting to the audience and they also distract the speaker from her message. Go buy a clicker -- a presentation remote -- and make sure you always have it with you. They are not expensive and they last years. In fact if you present often you should really have two in case one breaks or -- more likely -- you leave the receiver in a computer somewhere and forget it. With the clicker in your hand you can walk about the stage, you can stand in front of the key people in the audience, you can gesture and you can point. You can also switch to the next image on precisely the beat where the change has most impact. Try it sometime. A pitch with a clicker always beats any other style.

PLACE A MONITOR SCREEN IN FRONT OF YOU. Turning round to look at the screen is distracting and looks unprofessional. You can avoid this completely if you place your laptop or an extra monitor screen between you and the audience. Ideally you know your material so well you need this only to check that the clicker worked and see which slide is on the screen. But if you have forgotten the contents you should be able to read it without ever having to look away from the audience. In most rooms you can place your laptop on a table or chair in front of you, but at events consider asking the organizer to place a monitor on the front of the stage.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLAN B. What happens if your presentation or demo don't work? Don't waste time trying to make it work. Allow yourself a certain time and if it doesn't work after that time then switch to plan B. What is plan B? This could be a handful of smartphones with demos that you can hand around. It could be a talk-only pitch with no slides. It could be a words and flipchart pitch. Whatever it is make sure that you have prepared. One sure way to impress people is to deal with the unexpected smoothly and professionally. Never let a technical fault stop you making your pitch.

These three practical tips can turn a fairly ordinary pitch into something much more impressive and professional. But remember also to practice until you can do the pitch without hesitation and without going over the agreed time.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about speaking, presenting and influencing skills and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan at conseil@andrewhennigan.com, through the website http://andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Why Careful Speakers and Writers Avoid the “Slippery Slope”

A Google News search today reveals 7850 articles containing ”slippery slope”. It’s become the go-to rhetorical device for a generation of unoriginal speakers and writers but careful influencers avoid it because it is tired, lame and too easy to counter. Try using this phrase just once when I am coaching you and I will  hit the pause button right there and make sure that you promise never to do it again.

A slippery slope argument is tired because it has been overused to the point that it has become a joke. It is lame because it might sway the unthinking mob but isn't supported by experience, research or logic. And it is easy to counter because any point on a  slippery slope is also on that slope. So gay marriage is the slippery slope that leads to marrying sheep? Well if that were true then classic marriage is also on that same slippery slope – remember, that’s what led to gay marriage. By this reasoning any marriage is dangerous because it inevitably leads to marrying sheep, or whatever that leads to.

Everyday experience and history demonstrates quite clearly that the fabled slippery slopes are, in fact, anything but slippery. More often than not trying to get anything to change is a struggle and people are resistant even to change that will almost certainly benefit them. It took a long time, for example, to convince people that putting wheels on luggage was a good idea. Similarly many people were very reluctant to give up their typewriters for personal computers and others stubbornly resisted email until it was unavoidable.

So next time you are tempted to use a slippery slope argument remember that it long ago lost any freshness it might have had. Remember also that someone in the audience is going to rip your argument to pieces. Even if they don’t say so out loud you are only telling them that you don’t really have a convincing argument. If slippery slope is the best you have to offer then basically you don’t have any argument.

And once you start using the slippery slope device you risk sliding down the slippery slope towards a surfeit of rhetoric and before you know it we will all be speaking Greek, or marrying sheep or whatever else is down there at the bottom of that slope. Or maybe not.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about speaking & influencing skills or other areas of communication you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com, through his website http://andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Five Things Every Startup Founder Needs to Know About Getting Media Coverage

A surprising number of the founders I meet are planning to send out a press release or to cold email an important publication to pitch their startup. Neither of these approaches is particularly effective. Press releases work best for established companies – when Apple sends out a release for a groundbreaking new product everyone will cover it -- otherwise it ends up being used only by minor blogs and websites. Cold emails are also rarely successful simply because you are just one in a very large crowd. But there are five things everyone should be doing if they hope to get coverage one day.

BE EASY TO FIND. At this very moment there is probably a journalist somewhere who is writing about your field and you would be mentioned if they could find you. They might try a Google search to see what comes up so make sure that you are easy to find. This is much easier than it sounds. All you need is a website and a few social media accounts to fill a page of Google search results. Google your name and keywords related to your business regularly. Make sure that people can find you.

BE EASY TO CONTACT. Believe it or not but more than once I have written about a company that was not my first choice just because the number one on my list was near impossible to contact. At the bottom of your home page make sure that there is an email address like “press@startupname.com” or “media@startupname.com”.  There should also be a phone number because some questions just can’t wait even a quick email turnround. And if you have a Twitter account – and you should – be sure than someone is monitoring the @ messages in case there’s an inquiry from the media.

BE RESPONSIVE. Once someone has tried to contact you get back to them very quickly to confirm that you have received the message and that you are interested in responding. Ask for clarification about the deadline and what is expected. Once you have taken the commitment deliver the answers on time. Rocket launches can be scrubbed, football games can be postponed but Tuesday’s newspaper will come out on Tuesday. There is no tolerance for late inputs. Respond too late and another company will fill your place.

BE CONCRETE. Some inputs from companies are completely unusable. Learn to explain what you do concretely without talking about being a “provider of technology solutions” or “leveraging synergies”. And don’t bother to say how excited you are. Nobody cares. Be careful to state the obvious. One especially common problem is for software companies to forget that not everyone makes software so they sometimes forget to mention it.

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Just like everyone else media people tend to trust people they know more than strangers. Start early to build relationships with people in media. Be helpful even when you are not directly involved. If they are writing about a topic that you are qualified to comment on then be responsive, helpful and dependable. Then they will come back to you again and you get a reputation for being a good source, so maybe others ask you for comments, too. They when the day comes that you have an interesting story to pitch then people are more likely to listen to you.

This blog post is based on the lecture “What Every Startup Founder Needs to Know About Getting Media Coverage”. If you’d like to have this lecture at your meeting or event contact speaker@andrewhennigan.com.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email on conseil@andrewhennigan.com, by phone at 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through his website http://andrewhennigan.com.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Social Media Posts Can Come Back to Bite You in Unexpected Places

When you post controversial stories and images you are probably not surprised when there is a negative reaction. But even if you stick to strictly innocent, professional posts on your social media sometimes they still come back to bite you in unexpected places.

Most people don't expect that their LinkedIn profile could ever do them any harm, but several stories in the news show that this is not always the case.

Recently Apple has been sued for poaching engineers to develop new electric vehicle technology. A report published by the Guardian newspaper on 19 February 2015, Apple Sued for Poaching Engineers with Deep Expertise in Electric Car Systems cites as evidence for the accusation a survey of LinkedIn profiles of company employees. These profiles, individually nothing exceptional, when placed together paint a picture of precisely targeted people moving to Apple at the same time. Very few companies address this problem but employee LinkedIn profiles are well known to be a valuable source of competitive intelligence. I have never heard of anyone trying to control employee profiles, but in the workshops I do for companies I draw attention to these risks and suggest that people reflect on what they write in their profiles.

LinkedIn profiles are not just interesting in the corporate world. Journalists are learning to use them as a source to verify other facts. New Statesman published an investigative piece on 2 February 2015, Is the story of the middle-class Heathrow homeless couple too good to be true?, where they examined a story originally published by a tabloid about a couple alleged to be living in an airport. One of the primary sources in this investigation was the LinkedIn profile of one of the people involved, providing names of employers to contact and an approximate timeline. Increasingly journalists are checking online profiles as fast as they can find them and before they are removed as a news story breaks.

Even if you never use social media and never post any online profiles they can still cause unexpected problems because other people use them. As part of a multi-part series about foreign owners of luxury apartments in New York's Time Warner Center the New York Times published an investigative piece on 9 February 2015, Amid Complaints in India, a Real Estate Deal in Manhattan, describing their efforts to determine if an Indian property developer Kabul Chawla was the owner of apartment 68F in the Time Warner Center. Chawla denies owning property in New York but journalists at the New York Times noted that his teenage son posted photos on Facebook showing the characteristic windows and view of this building. This isn't evidence because the son could have been visiting anyone else with an apartment at a similar height, but it is very suggestive and undermines all the work purchasing the apartment through a string of shell companies.

If there is a lesson in all of these stories it is that journalists have learned to parse every public profile and post you make, so you need to be even more cautious. It's not just the drunken party picture or the shirtless tweet to teenage admirers that you need to worry about. Sometimes it's just your apparently unexciting career history on LinkedIn or the background of a routine photo shot by a friend or family member.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For interesting and useful lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about social media and other communication topics you can contact me by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com, by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475. You can find more contact information on my website http://andrewhennigan.com.