Tag Archives: learning

Getting what you want: Pitching

Pitching – how you frame and communicate your need – is essential to getting what you want.  

I’ve been thinking about pitching for many years to support the entrepreneurs I work with win competitions, create partnerships and raise funding. Pitching skills help us get what we want beyond starting a new business or initiative. We pitch when we present ourselves for a job interview, market our product, tell our colleagues our new idea or try to get kids to clean their rooms!

There are many resources available that explain what to include for the content of the pitch. This may differ slightly depending on situation, but generally we need to be able to explain the value proposition, revenue model/incentive, team and relevant capabilities and high-level plan of action.

However, when listening to pitches, I’m often reminded of Maya Angelous’ quote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Below are some of the less tangible things I’ve learnt about successful pitching:

Pitching starts from first contact – any interaction you have whether on phone, email or written document should all be seen as part of your pitch and create a coherent and compelling narrative. Everything you do builds (or takes away from) credibility and connection. A rude or badly thought-through email before the pitch can create a poor impression. Ask yourself what story you are telling through each interaction and adjust if necessary.

Prepare for the moment you walk into the room – be sure to present your best self before you start. How are you holding yourself? What are you wearing?  What is your non-verbal communication? How are you standing? You can only create one first impression… someone who slopes into the room looking hung-over and wearing only one shoe, may not get the desired response! What first impression do you want to create?

Check in with yourself – know why you want this and be clear which part of your psyche is motivating you. Projects and ideas motivated by ego and anger may lose momentum. Those by a deep connection to the outcome or a curiosity about self are generally easier to sustain.  People support people and likeability is a huge, sometimes unconscious, part of any assessment. Be authentic. Why am I doing this and what do I need to do to bring my best self to it?

Be prepared – to explain your project or idea succinctly against any criteria set out. Make sure your ‘ask’ is clearly articulated. I find the business model canvas or other similar tools useful to ensure I have thought through all aspects of a proposition. Trying different pitch types e.g. pitching using the Pixar style or for a TED talk are useful preparation. Practice both words and gestures. Create a prototype to test/prove the concept. Am I ready for anything?

Know your protagonist – who is this idea benefitting? Do they care? What do they have to say about it? An idea needs to centre on an ‘end-user’, ‘beneficiary’ or ‘customer’. There are lots of great design thinking tools that allow you to think through any idea from the protagonists’ viewpoint. This is critical to the success of any idea. Who is this idea for and why do they care?

Check in with your audience – are they ‘getting it’? Should you pause to connect with them? Are you speaking ‘their language’ (this may be by competence e.g. finance or marketing, their orientation e.g. expressive, quiet or literally cockney, northern, etc.). Have you identified and clearly communicated what’s in it for them? Can you get them to interact with and thereby connect with the idea? A good way to do this is to ask a question e.g. “How many of you travelled here by bus this morning?” Am I connecting with my audience?

Be self-aware – check if you need to flex your style i.e. to minimise or maximise personal attributes e.g. hand gestures, enthusiasm, aggression, quiet confidence, etc. Check your confidence level – there is something different about saying ‘we are trying to’ vs ‘we will’. Are you over-using ‘filler’ words such as “some”, “like”?  These are indicators of a lack of confidence, conviction or preparation. How am I being in this moment?

Bring the idea to life – use graphs, stories, prototypes, story boards, lego and movies to help explain your idea. I’ve seen people bring cooking to a pitch for a new restaurant, create a future magazine cover for a social project and design a prototype of a new wind turbine with toilet rolls to explain their concepts.  Creating an experience is very powerful. Make sure it adds to your idea not distracts from the pitch. Can I explain my idea in a creative way?

Keep it simple – know what your ‘big idea’ is and be able to explain it in a single sentence. It might be helpful to list our context, complication, solution beforehand in order to be clear on the problem it solves and the value it adds. Don’t have more than 3 points in your pitch. Be clear on your 3-5 key messages and ensure these are communicated. Test your pitch on unusual suspects – your kids or the pizza delivery man. This will force you to simplify your message and check your language. What is the one key takeaway for my audience?

Don’t be afraid of questions – you ‘own’ the conversation. Any answer is a good one if delivered with authenticity, humility and openness. The delivery is often more important than the content. If you don’t know the answer – be honest – but come up with a plan to get the answer. Typical questions pick up on risks, stakeholders, customer needs, capabilities and funding. Can I stay calm and connected to my belief in this idea no matter what?

Creating a successful pitch is as much about your personal preparedness and mindset as it is about your revenue model (we rarely believe your ‘hockey stick revenue curve’, anyway!). Preparation is all about you – stay true to yourself and authentic in your communication.

And best of luck!

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If you have a world-changing idea that needs some help – please contact me on nicola.millson@6-heads.com. Through the Upstart programme and League of Intrapreneurs we work with intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to shape and scale social innovation. More information about the kinds of businesses we work with and things we do can be found here: Scaling disruption

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 9: What did you do last night?

What did you do last night?

Did you dance? Any power moves?

Today’s theme, submitted by Isabella, is people powered energy. Harvesting energy from human footsteps can contribute power required to light offices, shopping centres and railway stations through floor tiles that generate electricity when they are walked over.

You can “throw some shapes” on an energy self-sufficient dance floor. The “Sustainable Dance Floor” is available for hire and your audience will help you with the electricity bill of your event. This is creates an interactive environment that is educational.

Other applications include Pavegen Systems, a UK-based company tested their installation at West Ham underground station which was a main transport hub during the 2012 Olympic Games, generating the power required to keep the station’s lights on.

For more from 6heads and to subscribe to our 28 days of inspiration: http://6-heads.com/

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 7: Flying lessons

Flying Lessons

ImageMixing sustainability, education and most importantly play

Todays author is Louisa Harris – she provides some inspiration ahead of the weekend – and reminds us of the power of play

I fell in love with the book Flying Lessons by Shim Smilansky last summer. It is a colouring book designed to teach children (or in my case adults) about growing their own vegetables. On each page of the book a different line drawing of a vegetable can be coloured in. After you’ve coloured in your design, rip the page out and turn it over for instructions on how to make a paper aeroplane. The best part is that in the nose of every plane are four seeds for the vegetable which has been coloured in to create the plane – all you need to do is throw your planes into your garden and wait for the rain to dissolve the paper and for the seeds to be fertilised.

This book is beautifully thought out incorporating sustainability into all aspects of its design – the paper is made from vegetables, illustrations are done with squid ink and the manufacturing process is electricity free.

Smilansky says “My aim was to start with vegetables and end up with more vegetables without any waste or other materials used in between.”

http://www.shimsmilansky.co.uk/Flying-Lessons

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Transformative education: Teaching for tomorrow Part 1

If education is the foundation for how our society evolves into the future – then how do we align this important system to our emergent needs?

Leigh Meinert, co-founder and executive director of the innovative education institution, Tsiba in South Africa, reflects here on “What is transformative education?”.  This is one of three guest blogs that explores Tsiba as a model for changing education.   www.tsiba.org.za

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What is transformative education? How do we teach, and learn, so that individuals are renewed and inspired and societies, ultimately, are changed?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that our “modern “day education system was designed to serve an industrialising society. We needed factory workers and so our schools were essentially designed like sausage machines. In the industrial world you gained a head start in life by knowing a great deal of content knowledge – facts and theories. Indeed, the more knowledge you had the more power you had and you would probably end up being the boss of the factory.  Today all of that knowledge is available online and the challenges that we are facing are more complex. The knowledge that we teach will be obsolete in a few years but our outdated education system still lines people up in rows and tells young people what we think they need to know.

What we need today – more than ever before – are leaders and entrepreneurs. People who are creative and visionary. People who make jobs and don’t just take them. In order to navigate through a rapidly changing world, young people don’t only need facts and theories, what they really need to know is themselves, their values, their passion and their purpose. This is what gives them a head start and transformative helps them to find this.

Secondly, we need to recognise that knowledge about ourselves and what is important to us cannot be found in books or even online. Knowledge about ourselves comes through engagement with the world and reflection upon this. As educators and parents, we cannot give our children these answers. We cannot teach them that which they now most need to know, we can only ask them good questions that promote good thinking.

Today we need to equip young people for a world where there are no longer any easy answers, but as educators we are not comfortable with open ended questions. To teach in this way requires a radical change in our understanding of what it means to be a teacher.

And so, thirdly, transformative education requires teachers to be mentors and coaches. Instead of being the people at the front of the classroom with all the answers we need to sit alongside our students and help them find their own answers.  When we think back on our own formative years, what really engaged us about the teachers and adults who inspired us was not what they taught us but who they were. They made a difference in our lives because they cared about us, because they listened to us and often, because they were leading purposeful lives themselves.

To summarise then, transformative education has three significantly different elements to it:

  • It is education that helps people to find their purpose.
  • It is education that asks more questions and gives fewer answers and,
  • It is education that requires teachers to become mentors and coaches.

In my following blog post, I will provide an example of an undergraduate business school called TSiBA where these elements are applied with transformative effect.

 TSiBA’s CEO and fellow co-founder, Adri Marais, talk at the ‘Transformative Education’ event held at London Business School on 29 October 2013. There is limited availability. For more information and to book your place, please visit http://transformativeeducation.eventbrite.co.uk/