“Fear is a pair of handcuffs on your soul.” – Faye Dunaway

Have you been told to practice your presentation in front of a mirror?

That’s terrible advice!

Why?

Practicing in front of a mirror focuses you on YOU which makes you self-conscious.

Self-consciousness is the opposite of the stream-of-conscious state you want to be in when you speak.

The goal is to focus on your audience (not yourself).

Are you thinking, “I agree with this in principle; but it’s easier said than done. What I want to know is HOW can I get over my nerves and focus on my audience instead of feeling like I’m going to __________ (fill in the blank) ?”

Here’s how.

A client came to me who was going to be pitching to a room full of investors at the Paley Center in New York City.

She had had a “nightmare” experience a few weeks before where she had “frozen” in front of a VIP audience.

She had become painfully aware that the future of her venture – in which she had invested years and her life savings – depended on getting a yes from these venture capitalists.

The enormity of the situation “got” to her and her mind went blank. It took several awkward moments before she regained her notes  … and her composure.

By then, it was too late. She had lost their respect – and any chance of a deal.

She came to me in the hopes I could help her regain her confidence so she could walk into this high-opportunity situation at the Paley Center and land funding from these venture capitalists.

I asked her, “You’ve heard of MBWA – Management By Walking Around?”

She said, “Isn’t that when leaders get out of their office and walk around to connect with employees -instead of holing up behind their desk where they become isolated and out of touch?”

“Exactly. We’re going to Rehearse By Walking Around.

We’re going to get out from behind that mirror and walk around the lake to connect with your intentions instead of practicing in your head where it’s easy to get up tight and out of touch.”

She asked, “How will walking help me get over my stage-fright?”

“Going for a walk gets your oxygen pumping, your blood flowing and aligns your left and right brain so you’re at your creative, intellectual best.

Furthermore, looking around at your surroundings while navigating your way is a way to practice that multi-focus type of concentration where you’re sharing your message and observing and adapting to your surroundings – all at the same time – without going blank or getting distracted.”

“Really?”

“Really. Did you play sports growing up?”

“Yes, I played soccer in high school and college.”

“Then you know that we play the way we practice.

I had the privilege of working with Rod Laver (who won the Grand Slam of Tennis twice) when I co-managed his tennis facility on Hilton Head Island, SC.

Rocket thought it didn’t make sense to just ‘rally and hit balls’ in the days before a match. He thought if you wanted to serve well and return well – you ought to practice serving and returning.”

I told her, “I think speaking is like playing a sport.”

“How so?”

“It has many of the same elements.

We prep for speaking as we would an important match. If we want to access that peak performance zone state where we turn nervousness into focus and become one with what we’re doing, we better GET MOVING.

Walking (or running or working out on the treadmill or stair-stepper) WHILE you rehearse sets up that sublime sense of entrainment where there’s no room at the mental inn for doubts – just determination.

Walking embodies your message. You’re not just rehearsing; you’re immersing yourself in your message.”

My client was open to this rather unique approach – so we headed out around the lake to prep her pitch.

As we walked and talked, she started obsessing about how afraid she was of having another “meltdown.”

I asked this bright, talented entrepreneur, “I bet when you were in high school and college playing soccer, you were a ‘Give-me-the-ball kind of player’ when the game was on the line.”

She smiled and said, “Yes, I was.”

I told her, “That’s how you want to approach this pitch. Become a ‘Give me the ball’ kind of speaker.

Instead of worrying about what could go WRONG …  FILL YOUR MIND with appreciation for this opportunity and FOCUS 100% on how you’re going to do everything you can to make it go RIGHT.”

She did just that.

She transformed her approach and walked into that auditorium with determination instead of doubts.

She “walked and talked” in the halls in the moments before her pitch and embodied her message and exuded an athletic confidence that commanded respect.

She filled her mind with how grateful she was for this opportunity – and projected the joy and pride that helped her hit it out of the park – and favorably impress everyone in the room.

How about you?

Are you prepping for an important pitch or presentation?

How do you overcome your fear or stage-fright?

How do you prepare to walk in with an athletic “give-me-the-ball” confidence that captures the favorable attention of everyone in the room?

How do you keep yourself from getting brain-freeze?

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“When someone’s impatient and says, ‘I haven’t got all day,’ I always wonder, ‘How can that be? How can you not have all day?'” – comedian George Carlin

George had it right the first time.

We DON’T have all day to convince people we’re worth listening to.

Busy decision-makers make up their minds in minutes whether we’re a good investment of their time and mind.

That’s why it’s up to you to distill your pitch down to 10 slides.

Yes, I said 10 slides.

If you roll out a 30, 40, or 50+ power point slide deck (don’t laugh, I’ve seen them and, unfortunately, sat through some) … investors are already rolling their eyes and getting out their smart phones.

You do not want to add to the epidemic of INFO-BESITY

I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of entrepreneurs on their pitches .. and we always distill their pitch into a crisp, convincing 10 slide, 10 minute format that thrills potential investors because it concisely and compellingly addresses what they need to know to make a decision.

Here are just a few of the criteria I use when designing a to-the-point pitch that will win buy-in to my client’s idea, venture, product launch or start-up. Hope you find them useful.

1. Anticipate and Address Objections:

Investors can be “Doubting Thomas’s.” Ask yourself, “Why would they say no?” and then say it early on. If you don’t address their objections in the beginning, they won’t be listening; they’ll be waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you why your idea won’t work. Neutralize resistance by naming it . . . first.

2. Title Each Slide with the Main Point and Turn Some Titles into Questions

Don’t force investors to try to figure out the most important take-away. They can’t give you their undivided attention if they’re distracted or confused by an unclear slide. Ask yourself, “What’s the primary point of this slide – what do I want them to remember?” and then feature it on top so everyone gets the point.

Posing questions with your title and then answering it with your content turns your pitch into a two-way dialogue instead of a one-way monologue. Voicing what the group is thinking and articulating what’s on their mind – and then responding to that turns your pitch into an conversation vs. a lecture.

3. State the Problem(s) Your Business Solves:

Exactly how does your business solve an existing problem of your target audience in a unique or more efficient, profitable way? Reference a respected publication (WSJ? IBD?) that reveals a dramatic statistic, a recent study result, or a survey that attests to the size/scope of the problem or need you’re addressing. Specify how your solution is better than the competition or is addressing this problem in a revolutionary, first-of-its-kind way. What metrics can you provide that prove the urgency of this issue or the rapid growth of this demographic?

4. Show Them the Money:

Want investors to give you millions? Show exactly how and where you’ve managed and made millions before. Where exactly have you produced impressive monetary results commensurate with what you’re asking? Prove you’re not a risk with a tangible bottom-line track record of successful launches, exits, sales, profits, savings, payoffs. Don’t wait until the last slide to introduce this; put it up front as the primary question in an investor’s mind is, “Have you generated/managed big money before? Can you be trusted to do it again and make money for us? How?”

5. No TMI. 10 slides TOPS.

People shut down when there’s too many slides and a speaker races to “get them all in.” When people are overwhelmed; they become immobilized. They will not say yes or want to know more if they’re flooded with a fire-hose of facts. Discipline yourself to make 10 clean points. vs. 20 confusing ones.

6. Remember, slides are visual “aids.” Keep ’em clean and visually appealing.

In a 10 minute pitch, fancy animation or complex graphics can be over-kill. YOU are the show – not your slides. Please, no lengthy documents in tiny print. Distill crucial info into 3-4 bullets max. Make copy easy to “eyeball” with a minimum of 24 point font. Instead of bells and whistles; use a consistent theme with dark text on a light background to produce an easy-to-read, professional-looking presentation.

Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.” Have a max of 25 words per slide. Distill each point into its essence – you can always elaborate when you’re speaking. Numbering points instead of bulleting them can make them easier to follow and more factual.

7. Make Your Slides Right and Left Brain:

Include some human faces along with your graphics and grids to SHOW what you do, not just talk about it. Balance statistics with a real-life success story to “people” your pitch so it’s not neck-up, wah-wah rhetoric. Remember, investors make decisions on emotion and logic. Have a blend of photos of real-live people and back up your claims with empirical data so decision-makers like you and respect you.

8. Put Names and Numbers in Your Claims:

Instead of making vague generalizations (e.g., “team has extensive experience in bio-med” What’s that mean?), say, “For example . . . “ and then provide the names and logos of companies you’ve worked with; the millions of dollars you’ve generated; the number of months it took for a product launch; the hundreds of people you’ve managed. Metrics are trusted. Sweeping claims without specific, real-world evidence are suspect.

9. Give Three Action Options in Closing Slide:

Do you know how most people end their pitch? “Thank you for listening.” Arggh. Talk about leaving money on the table. Don’t close passively by trailing off and expecting the audience to read your mind. Close proactively by asking yourself, “What do I want them to do? Call next week to set up a more in-depth, in-person meeting? Connect with you at your exhibit table at the 2:45 pm afternoon break? Request a free sample or product demonstration? SAY THAT. Be explicit by offering three incentive options that would motivate them to follow-up.

Please note: preparing a pitch is a front-loaded project.

Yes, it takes time (and maybe some consulting money) to “do it right” … however it will pay off.

How much money are you asking for? Half a million? $2 million?

If you want to turn your dream into a funded, successful reality; take the time and invest the money to design a 10 slide pitch that has your decision-makers at hello.

Want 10 ways to DELIVER a pitch that captures and keeps your audience’s favorable attention from start to finish? Email us at Cheri@SamHorn.com and put PITCH DELIVERY TIPS in the subject heading.

“Remember, you’re a lot more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.” –
Andy Rooney

Are you going into a meeting today to introduce an idea, request funding or propose a program?

Did you know its success depends on whether you get people’s eyebrows up in the first 60 seconds?

Sam Horn eyebrow test

Sam Horn's The Eyebrow Test®


People at many meetings are either jockeying to get THEIR idea heard – or they’re bored, distracted or just waiting for the meeting to be over so they can go back to work on the UPO’s (Unidentified Piled Objects) stacking up on their desk.

The good news is, you can test in advance whether your idea is going to get any traction.

Just ask a colleague for 60 seconds of their time.

Explain your idea/proposal/request to them . . . using the exact same 60 second opening you’ll use in the meeting.

Now, watch their eyebrows.

If their eyebrows are knit or furrowed, they’re puzzled. They didn’t get it.

And if they didn”t get it, you won’t get it.

Because confused people don’t ask for clarificaiton and they don’t say yes.

You want their eyebrows to go UP. That means they’re intrigued. They want to know more.

That means you just got your idea or request in their mental door.

If what you’re pitching gets their eyebrows up, good for you. That means, “Game’s on.”

If it doesn’t, back to the drawing board.

Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?”

Want specific ways to win buy-in to what you’re proposing?

Email us at Sam@SamHorn.com with The Eyebrow Test® in the subject heading and we’ll send you three ways to get people’s eyebrows up in the first 60 seconds.

Or, purchase a copy of POP!

It has 25 innovative ways to create communication that quickly captures favorable attention from your target customers, investors and decision-makers, has been featured on MSNBC and in the NY Times and Washington Post. Sam’s keynote with these techniques has won raves from convention audiences around the world.

And subscribe to this blog if you’d like additional ways to craft intriguing openings that pass The Eyebrow Test® so people are motivated to give you their valuable time, mind and dime.

“Fear is a pair of handcuffs on your soul.” – Faye Dunaway

I was coaching a client today and she was admitting that, even though she’s a successful international executive, she still gets nervous when she speaks.

She has an important investor pitch coming up next week and she’s afraid she might freeze up.
I asked her, “Are you an athlete?”

“Yes. I swam in college and I run, work out or do yoga several times a week.”

“Good. From now on, you’re going to approach speaking as a sport.”

“What do you mean?”

“There are two kinds of athletes.

Those who, when the game is on the line, say, ‘DON’T give me the ball’ and those who say, ‘Give ME the ball.’

I’m betting you’re the latter.”

She laughed and said, “You’re right.”

“From now on, prep for speaking just like you would for a championship match.”

1. Check out the venue in advance so you have home-field advantage.

When I speak at conferences, I always go to the ballroom the night before (sometimes at midnight) when no one’s around.

I take the stage, throw my heart to the back of the room and give part of my presentation with the same volume of voice and animation I would before an audience of a thousand.

“Why is that so important?”

“You can’t be casual at practice and expect to be brilliant as soon as you start playing for real.

The same is true for speaking. You can’t expect to be your best in a boardroom or ballroom if you haven’t rehearsed with the same intensity and quality you want for the real-thing.

Pop Warner said, “You play the way you practice.”

Practicing the way you want to present where you’re going to present gives you a competitive edge. Other speakers will feel out of place in these unfamiliar surroundings but you’ll be relaxed because you’re on your home turf.

2. Go for a walk/run to get out of your head and into your body.

Have you been told to practice your speech in front of a mirror?

That’s terrible advice!

Why?

Practicing in front of a mirror focuses you on YOU which makes you self-conscious which is the opposite of the stream-of-conscious state you want to be in when you speak. Plus, you want to focus on your audience (not yourself).

The best way to develop the ability to do that is with RWWA.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“You’ve heard of MBWA – Managing By Walking Around – which is when you get out of your office and connect with your front-line employees to find out what’s really going on?

RWWA – Rehearsing While Walking Around – is when you walk-talk your presentation which more closely mimics what will actually be going on when you speak.

I always go for a walk outside the morning of a presentation.

Not only does this kick-in my endorphins and get my oxygen pumping and blood flowing – it aligns left and right brain so I’m at my analytical/creative/energetic best and raring to go.

Plus, looking around at my surroundings while navigating my way and rehearsing my talk is a way to practice multi-focus speaking.

Multi-focus speaking is that state of concentration where you’re sharing your message while observing and adapting to your surroundings – without getting distracted or pulled off topic.

Experienced teachers and champion athletes are pros at multi-focus. A teacher can be writing on the white board and delivering the lesson plan while noticing that Suzie is texting on her (forbidden) cell phone, Nick is sleeping and Vanessa is whispering to Tiffany.

A world-class athlete can process the elements – a change in the wind, a heckler in the third row – without allowing it to break their concentration.

Confident presenters have mastered the ability to stay focused on what they’re saying now and adapt what they’re going to say next . . . in real-time . . . as they evaluate the reactions of their audience and respond accordingly.

For example, If I’m speaking and notice a couple people in the back row checking their email, I might walk towards the back of the room and raise my voice to re-engage them . . . all without losing a beat.

When I suggested this to my client, she said, ‘Sam, I agree with RWWA in theory, but it doesn’t always work in real-life. What if I’m running late and arrive at an event minutes before I’m supposed to speak?”

I asked, “How much money are you asking for?”

“1.5 million.”

“So, you’re asking for more than a million dollars and wouldn’t invest a few hours to prep yourself to increase the likelihood of closing this deal?

You’ve spent months putting this venture together, developing your products, website and team, and wouldn’t do the one thing that could make the difference between you walking in feeling pressured and panicked . . . or walking in feeling poised, professional and powerful?

Your future may rest on whether you get a yes from someone in this room and land funding.

Isn’t it worth arriving early – just like an athlete prepping for the Olympics – so you can acclimate by RWWA which will prepare you to do your best and be your best?

Walking briskly turns panic energy (“What if I forget what I’m going to say?) into pro-active energy (This is how I’m going to keep my cool if my mind goes temporarily blank.)

She protested one last time. “What if I’m still nervous?”

Then, you’re still in your head, THINKING about what YOU want to say and what the audience might think of YOU. This feeds fear which keeps you in neck-up nervousness.

Audiences come in three states of energy – actively resistant, apathetic or eager.

Our goal as a communicator is to have such commanding, convincing, confident energy, it wins over the neutral and resistant individuals and adds to the energy of the fans.

The best way to access and exude that type of ConZONEtration is to immerse yourself in the “one-with-what-you’re-doing-peak-performance-zone state” where there’s no room at the mental inn for doubts.

The best way to do that is to remove the handcuffs of fear that exist in your head and free up flow by embodying your message.

And the best way to embody your message is to immerse yourself in your presentation beforehand by DOING IT and MOVING IT – not standing in front of a mirror and thinking it or reading it.

Want more ways to see speaking as a sport and walk in with the confidence of a champion athlete?

Check out my books What’s Holding You Back? and ConZentrate (both from St. Martin’s Press) which show how to access the exquisite state of confident ConZONEtration where you remain poised under pressure and perform your best.

Thanks to Duke Ellington for his insightful lyric that inspired the above title.

This is the final post in a 5-part series sharing some of the coaching tips given to Springboard Enterprises clients.

Part of the advice given was “If you want investors to care, you’ve got to show F.L.A.I.R.”

Many investors have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches. After awhile, they all start to sound alike.

One way to stand out and get noticed and remembered – for all the right reasons – is to use R = Rhythm and Ryhme.

Tip 1. Duke was right. When you put things in a beat; you make them easy to repeat.

Hence the enduring popularity of such “earworm” ad slogans as:

“I Can’t Believe I Ate The W-h-o-l-e Thing” (Alka Seltzer)

and

“Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking” (Timex)

Chances are, you haven’t heard those jingles for years: yet you can still repeat them, word for word, in the same cadence you first heard them.

When I work with clients, one of our priorities is to create a proprietary phrase that pays that showcases their strongest selling point.

We work on saying it with “pause and punch” so anyone can repeat it, word for word, after hearing it once.

Tiip 2. Be sure to pause and punch when introducing yourself and when wrapping up.

When nervous, or when trying to jam a lot of material into a short amount of time, many speakers jumble their words together.

The consequence is people don’t “get” your name – which means they won’t be able to repeat it a minute, hour or week later – which means you’re out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Not good.

Put a pause between your first and last name (i.e., Sam – Horn) so each word is distinct and can be heard clearly.

Then, e – nun – ci – ate each syllable of your business name – and put a 3 beat pause between words – to make sure it’s imprinted and so people get it the first time.

For example, In – trigue . . . In – sti – tute.

This may sound petty or like I’m making a big deal out of nothing.

However, if people can’t repeat your name, they didn’t get your name . . . which means you won’t get their business.

Tip 3. Rhyme is sublime . . . because it helps you get remembered over time.

One of my favorite examples of this comes from the U.S. Government.

They were concerned years ago about the number of fatalities and injuries in car accidents so they invested a lot of money to create a public service campaign called “Buckle Up for Safety.”

Hmmm. Are you motivated to just run out and fasten your seat belt?

No one seemed to care and no one was inspired to change their behavior.

So, they went back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin was famous for saying, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?”

This time, they put their slogan in a rhyme that had a distinctive beat. I bet you know what I’m talking about.

Yep, Click It or Ticket.

Not only did that phrase that pays catch on, it’s motivated people to buckle up and, as a result, the number of injuries and fatalities has decreased.

All this goes to prove that phrasing isn’t petty.

You can spend hours and thousands of dollars on fancy power point slides, bar charts and graphics.

But if you rush through your material and your audience can’t understand or remember anything you said – it will all be for naught.

Remember these 5 elements when preparing for and delivering your pitch . . .to increase the likelihood YOU’LL be top-of-mind at the end of a long day.

F = Fun. If you’re not having fun; they’re not having fun.

L = Link. Compare what you do to something with which they’re fond and familiar to fast-forward comprehnsion and buy-in.

A = Alliteration. It’s working for Java Jacket. Why not for you?

I = Inflection and In Your Body. Tower (vs. cower) and speak out – loud and clear – with downward inflection so you have the look and voice of authority.

R = Rhythm and Rhyme. Craft a phrase that pays and make it easy to repeat so you’re the one who gets remembered.

Want more tips on how to POP! your pitch, close the deal and get the money?

Check out POP! – which has been featured on MSNBC and in the New York Times and Washington Post – so the next time you present, you are confdient of your ability to intrigue and favorably impress everyone in the room.

“I have a photographic memory. I just haven’t deveoped it yet.” – Jonathan Winters

So, we’ve talked about how having FUN and using LINKS contributes the F.L.A.I.R. that motivates investors to care.

What’s next?

A = Alliteration

Say these words.

Best Purchase.

Dirt Vacuum.

Bed, Toliet, Etc.

Kind of clunky, eh?

Now make those words alliterative. (Alliteration is when words start with the same sound.)

Best Buy.

Dirt Devil.

Bed, Bath and Beyond.

More musical and memorable, right?

This is not petty.

Repeatability is crucial to memorability.

And memorability is crucial to you closing a deal.

At the Springboard Enterpises BootCamp in Boston at the Microsoft NERD Center on June 17; each of the 21 entrepreneurs (selected from more than 100 applicants) started with a 2 minute bio presentation.

Their assignment?

Tell us, in 2 minutes, about your credentials and proven track record so we are intrigued, impressed and convinced you have the clout to carry this off.

Here’s what I told the group at the end of their bio presentations – which took about an hour total.

“Okay, I’m giving you each $10 million. You just heard 21 entrepreneurs introduce their business credentials. Who would you invest in?

Look around the room. WHO DO YOU REMEMBER?

Do you remember ANY of the names of the presenters or businesses? What do you remember that so impresseed you, you’re motivated to walk up to that person and initiate a follow-up conversation?”

It was a sobering moment. Because these entrepreneurs realized that most of what they just heard had gone in one ear and out the other.

They realized that unless they did something special with THEIR pitch, the business they’d invested their head, heart, soul and bank account in . . . may go in one ear and out the other of future investors who have heard thousands of pitches.

Think about it. These were 2 minute pitches.

Many pitch forums feature 20 – 30 ten minute pitch presentations, back to back.

Imagine sitting through 8 hours of pitches.

At the end of a l-o-n-g day, pitches start to blend together. They start to sound alike and it’s hard to remember who was who.

That means, unless you do something special to stand out, you’ll be out of sight, out of mind.

That’s why it’s essential to give your audience a hook on which to hang a memory.

If you care about your idea or business, it’s YOUR responsibility to pitch it so crisply and compellingly, YOU’RE THE ONE they remember . . . YOU’RE the one they respect . . . YOU’RE the one they want to talk to at the end of the day.

Alliteration helps.

Look at your pitch, product description, web copy and business name. Are you using alliteration, i.e., Rolls Royce. Dunkin Donuts. Java Jacket. Merlin Mobility? (Kudos to Springboard presenter Margaret Martin for coming up with that magically alliterative name.)

If so, good for you.

If not, go back and insert words into sentences that start with the same sound. It will make your language more lyrical and help you stand out so YOU’RE the entrepreneur who’s top of mind at the end of a long day of pitches.

“I never metaphor I didn’t like.” – Richard Lederer, NPR’s A Way with Words

In the previous blog, we talked about the importance of having FUN while pitching.

If you’re not having fun; trust me; your audience isn’t having fun.

Now for the second letter in F.L.A.I.R. that helps investors care.

L = LINK

“The quickest way to help decision-makers connect with what your business does is to compare it to something they already know and respect.” – Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, pitch strategist and author of POP!

Jan Bruce of New Life Solution is already a successful entrepreneur having developed meQuilibrim (talk about a business name that POP!s).

She has a compelling “backstory.” After selling a business to Martha Stewart for millions, for some reason, Jan didn’t feel as happy as hoped.

In fact, as she told our group, she wondered, “Why am I feeling so bad when I am doing so well?”

This prompted a quest to figure out what was going on.

Jan’s research revealed that “stress is the new ‘obesity.'”

It’s reached epidemic proportions and is costing companies billions and compromising people’s health.

She’s developed an “online, guided, self-help progam providing interactive education, behavior tools and peer support on a scalable basis.”

HUH?

See, that’s the problem.

That sentence describes what her business does – but we still don’t get it. And if we don’t get it, SHE won’t get it.

That’s where LINKING comes in.

Comparison provides a shortcut to comprehension.

A metaphor or analogy that links your unfamiliar business to something with which we’re familiar (and fond) fast-forwards our understanding.

Jan knows this and excels at it.

What’s her elevator intro for her business?

“New Life Solution is like Weight Watchers for stress.”

OOOHHHH. Got it.

Are you pitching an idea or venture?

What is it LIKE? Link your new idea or venture to a proven entity your decision-makers respect to turn confusion into clarity.

Believe me, an intrigued “ooohhh” is a lot better than a confused “huh?”

Want to know what the A in F.L.A.I.R. stands for? Keep reading.