One of the things I’ve learned over the past two years years while leading the DEMO conference is that great entrepreneurs are able to pitch their company stories clearly and engagingly in about two minutes.
I’ve now seen thousands of pitches, and it’s surprising how few entrepreneurs have mastered this. A flat or unfocused pitch can cause serious harm to your chances. Potential investors give up trying to see magic in you. Potential business partners see no need to follow up. Talented potential employees see nothing to spark their imagination.
Which is why I’m excited to recommend a new day-long workshop on Feb 11, designed for entrepreneurs wanting to learn how to pitch well.
It’s called “So, What’s YOUR Story?,” and it’s led by experts with years of experience in helping entrepreneurs relate their stories. The biggest reason I’m recommending this workshop, though, is because one of its main hosts is Nathan Gold, the official DEMO speaking coach. Nathan has done an outstanding job coaching entrepreneurs who seek out his help (entrepreneurs who are invited to DEMO are advised to seek his input, but they are not required to). Of the companies that go on to win a DEMOGod award, a large majority of them did so after getting advice from Gold before they went on stage. I’ve personally learned a lot from him too.
Now, good public speaking and fine-tuned elevator pitches are just a part of sensible marketing. And marketing isn’t everything. You need substance. Your product has to be sound. You need to be able to follow through. And you need certain traits of character such as perseverance, drive, and courage. But marketing is something many entrepreneurs often leave at the bottom of the priority list — to their detriment. Perhaps this is understandable: Entrepreneurs are often rational and pragmatic by nature, and believe their products should be able to speak for themselves. They often underestimate the importance of passion, of story-telling, of the need to engage, and to convince.
Most entrepreneurs think they tell their story well, by cramming as many details as possible into their pitches. But they often fail — at the higher level. Chris Shipley, my predecessor as executive producer at DEMO for 13 years, saw tens of thousands of pitches, and notes this well in her quote in this video (or click below) produced by Gold. I’m quoted too, at the end.
I’d argue that many entrepreneurs don’t see the value of marketing until they are taken through a process like this. In many instances, they’re surprised at how flat their stories turn out to be. The challenge to produce a compelling story often forces them back to the drawing board — and pushes them to filter out unnecessary noise that may be distracting them from their core mission. This can be good for the business. The entrepreneur may scrap unnecessary features or elements of their business model. They’ll often emerge with renewed mission focus and fire.
Along with Gold, the workshop is led by a few other heavyweights in storytelling. One of them is Conrad Ricketts, who has produced reality shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Ricketts is also winner of two Emmy Awards for “Best Reality TV Show,” and has been nominated for an Academy Award. Ricketts, like Gold, will tech you among other things how to use video tools to tell you story. Know what a Sizzle Reel is? If not, Ricketts is going help you understand why you need one, and how to make one. Ricketts learned the art of story telling while convincing media company executives why they should spend millions of dollars to produce shows like Extreme Makeover. It’s one thing, he told me in an interview, to learn to tell a story around the show, paint a picture of the plot’s narrative, and explain who the characters are. But creating a video helps this process go viral, because then “that person could take it up the chain and convince other people, and continue to get others excited about it…you really need more than a PowerPoint.”
You can sign up for the workshop here. There’s a cost to the workshop. But Gold is giving VentureBeat readers a 50% discount to the workshop, and to the live stream of the workshop if you can’t attend in person (use the promo code vb50). There’s a limited number of seats at the workshop, so you’d better sign up soon.