Demo Day is this Friday, April 10th! Each team will give a brief presentation introducing themselves and their companies to a crowd of leading area businessmen and women, distinguished guest speakers, and potential investors. This group of talented entrepreneurs is solving real problems with innovative solutions, so it's going to be an exciting day!
In anticipation of Demo Day, I've asked SparkLabKC mentor and presentation coach Vincent Wagner of Creelio (a graduate of our Class of 2014) to share some of the wisdom he's been imparting to our teams as they prepare to pitch in front of a crowd of influential mentors, innovators, and investors.
There are many theories on what makes a great Demo Day pitch. At Creelio, we think it is all about telling a believable story that gets the audience excited enough to become a customer and/or an investor. Here are three tips that we give all the startups that coach.
1) Pitch With Power
The first thing Creelio does with each of the teams is listen carefully to their 30-second Quick Pitch (sometimes called the "elevator pitch") to get a sense for how they express themselves. We listen for command over the subject, clarity of purpose, and a "hook" — something that grabs the audience's attention and gets them immediately involved. From there, we help each team extrapolate the "quick pitch" into a longer, more in-depth 8-minute Demo Day presentation.
There are many strategies we use to make sure the teams are presenting at their highest potential, and we'd like to share a few of them to give you an idea of the depth of work that goes into creating, crafting, and perfecting these pitches.
The truth is, power is in the details. The big picture is important, but once a compelling and clear message has been crafted, we spend a lot of time working on the little details. It the small stuff that ends up going a long way towards communicating the full scope and power of these innovative ideas.
2) Nail Your Name
One of the very first of these details is deceptively simple: introducing yourself.
Think about it. If I introduce myself and say "Hi, I'm John Smith?" with that habitual upward inflection that has become so common in American speech, what kind of impression am I making? I don't sound like I'm sure of myself. I literally come across as questioning myself and giving the subconscious impression that I'm not sure who I am or what I'm doing here.
Compare that with "Hi, I'm John Smith." with a downward inflection. Now I sound sure of myself, confident, and ready to move forward.
Now you try it: introduce yourself out loud and pay attention to what your voice is doing. Exaggerate that upward inflection, and you'll hear what I'm talking about. Now land it with the downward inflection. It sounds better and it even feels better and more confident! It seems so simple, but consider this: your introduction is likely the first thing someone hears when you meet them. Don't you want to make the best impression possible and set yourself up for success?
Dr. Laura Sicola of Vocal Impact Productions has a great TED Talk that addresses this subject — Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right. She lays out a similar strategy for making a strong first impression by consciously using your voice.
3) Stand Your Ground
Just as the way we use our voices conveys meaning (beyond the actual words we are saying, but how we are saying them), our physicality conveys meaning as well. Especially in a high-stakes presentation such as Demo Day (or any time potential investors are in the crowd), it's important to help your audience see that you are committed and working from a solid foundation. So don't let your feet betray you!
We all have nervous habits that arise in pressurized situations such as speaking in public. One very common habit is "happy feet" — rocking back and forth, taking tiny steps right and left, even pacing without direction. Imagine that you are being told a very compelling story by someone who constantly shuffles their feet or sways back and forth. It diminishes the power of what they are saying and distracts you from the matter at hand.
When you're giving a presentation, whether it's on a big stage or in a board room, you need to own the space. That means making intentional choices about how you use the space that you have, not wandering aimlessly and letting habits take the wheel. Stillness is powerful and demonstrates control. So, while you don't want to appear stiff or rigid, you want to stand still and only move when you make a conscious choice to do so. Otherwise, you're demonstrating a very shaky foundation. As public speaking coach Patricia Fripp notes, "How you stand represents the stability of your message."
At Creelio, we help executives tell their story. We provide custom content for online articles and social media as well as public speaking coaching. If you're interested in learning more about Creelio, visit our website or reach out to Vince at MyStory@creelio.com!
Tweet your Demo Day support to our teams @SparkLabKC!