How do you respond when a person says “Tell me about yourself?”
It might be called confidence, it might be called belief – do you let others see the best version of you, or do they see a dull, low-intensity, passionless version of yourself?
Why do we find it difficult to sell ourselves?
I spent the first 3 years of my entrepreneurial career selling insurance over the telephone in the spanish language. I picked up the phone 20 times each day and worked through my script. 3 years of this taught me 2 things: the spanish language, and zero fear of a “No”.
I got to practice hundreds of times how I present myself. I got pretty instant feedback whether my way of presenting myself engaged the other person into a conversation, or got a quick hang up on the telephone. Time and time again I learnt that “Hello, I’m Conor” was not a great start (to somebody who doesn’t know Conor).
At an Entrepreneurs’ Organisation retreat last month, the facilitator asked everybody to introduce themselves following a specific structure:
What I want you to know about me is _________
What I expect from these days is _________
My biggest dream for myself is ________
My name is ________
It made such a difference to the standard introductions. The standard version that I hear day after day is something along the lines of: “My name is John… from London. I’m glad to be here. I work as a lawyer. Ahh… I guess that’s it… Oh yeah… I am married. We have 2 kids. Yeah, that’s all.”
By the time John has finished, he has managed to bore himself about his own life. He certainly won’t be someone I’d think of asking questions about life, business or his hobbies.
On my online course, Speaking as a Leader, the first big lesson is about how to answer the question “Tell me about yourself?”. (You can sign up for the free course here). You will hear this question hundreds of times. Instead of John’s response, what would be the 100% version of your potential version?
A person can have the great idea, but if that person cannot convince a number of people: the idea dies.
Good ideas do die. Good ideas must have good advocates. Good advocacy and good idea makes an idea live.
Ideas need advocates like humans need oxygen.
The Leader as Communicator
The Leader’s #1 job as a communicator: to discover why people believe the things they do.
Wife says “I don’t like this type of movie.” Husband says “Yes you do.” Wife learns: he is an idiot.
Wife says “I don’t like this type of movie.” Husband says “I understand you don’t like this type of movie. What type of movies do you like? What do they have in common? What do you feel when you see those movies? What do you feel when you watch this movie?”. Wife shares. Husband learns.
Proving to somebody that they are wrong is not going to lead them to say “thank you for helping me identify the error of my ways”. Proving to someone that they were lazy is not going to lead them to take decisive action. Proving to someone that they were stupid is not going to lead them to score well on the exam or do a great job on the report.
“Why does this person think he is right?”
The most important question: Why does this person think he is right?
Everyone who states a position, takes an action – believes that it serves a positive purpose, whether conscious or unconsciously. Everyone has good reasons. Your job is to uncover their reasons. You may not see them as good reasons, but they are reason enough for that other person. You can only help them change if you start from where they start.
Your Question to keep Ideas Alive
Positions are the what. Interests are the why. If someone resists: Why do they hold this position? What benefit are they getting emotionally, strategically, personally, financially that makes them want to hold this position?
Find a way to show that the new idea can give them the same or more benefit.
When I step on stage to speak, I get 8 seconds before the listener decides how to categorize me:
worth attention, or
time to check my mobile email
What are your first words?
When I meet someone at a conference, a party, an event… again – we have 8 seconds. Catch attention, or the other person is starting to scan the room for a more interesting conversation partner and beginning to plan her escape: “oh I must get a new drink”, “Is the toilet over there?”, “Oh I must say hello to Anna”…
In those 8 seconds, your whole life is judged on the power of your first words. What are they? There are 7 billion humans… how do you stand out as different? (you are different… but how to sum up a whole life in several words?)…
So often a speaker begins with:
How does that help differentiate from 3 billion?
In-different = Boring
What does stop us for a moment? What delays the escape routine of the listener?
There are 7 triggers of fascination. Brands, people, even you use these triggers every day. You have one that is your “primary” trigger. What is your “primary” trigger?
Power – Take command of the environment
Pasion – Attract with emotion, irrational, irresistible charm
Mystique – Arousing curiosity
Prestige – Increase respect, aspiration
Alarm – Driving urgency
Vice – Creativity, Deviation from the norm, See things differently
Trust – Connection through consistency and predictability
Sally Hogshead explains the 7 triggers in her TEDx talk:
The story in the tech news of the last few days is the purchase of Summly by Yahoo for the sum of $30M, making the 17-year old founder Nick D’Aloisio an instant millionaire.
It sounds fairly simple.
The story they want you to believe:
Teen whizz writes cool app. App downloaded by millions. Yahoo gets interested. Teen whizz meets after school to agree $30M deal. Teen now rich.
The reality might be a little more useful.
The reality: Mentors and Advisors made this deal.
Horizon Ventures, the Hong-Kong based Venture Capital fund that is part of Li Ka-shing‘s empire spotted Nick D’Aloisio a few years ago.
He was a great coder, and presents himself well; he had a decent app.
Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s company Horizon put together a group of mentor/advisors for Nick – including Jonathan Ive, chief designer at Apple; other well-known tech and media names including actors Ashton Kutcher, Stephen Fry, Spotify’s Shakil Khan, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter.
Together they shaped an unknown London geek into a cool dude and a $30M deal with Yahoo.
It was not the awesomeness of the app, it was the credibility of the mentors and advisors that made this deal.
He's 17, and just sold his @Summly business to Yahoo for $30m – tonight, I'll interview Brit whizzkid @nickdaloisio CNN 9pmET.
This is an important one. We live in a world of personal branding, quick online reputation checks and a lot of noise. Authors, Entrepreneurs and job seekers get less and less time to explain themselves.
This morning I was listening to Guy Kawasaki pitch his new book “APE” in a webinar on publishing. He talked about the challenge of an author. “Nobody walks into the bookstore thinking I am here to make Guy Kawasaki a little bit richer. He walks in with a problem that he wants to solve. His problem.”
The mentality of someone walking into a bookstore and browsing, and the mentality of an investor share a lot of similarities. They have their own agenda. Either you show you can help that agenda very quickly, or there are 20,000 other books in the bookshop that will get their attention.
If You Can’t Explain what You do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem
I love the energy of entrepreneurs. I spend a lot of time involved in activities in Barcelona. I love the entrepreneurial energy. It is great to see people and institutions coming together to build the supporting community. We need to get better at connecting 1) the people with the resources with 2) the people with the ideas with 3) the people who can execute these ideas.
If you approach me at a networking event and say “I’d like to talk to you about my business.” I’ll say “Great.” Then I will ask “What problem do you solve?”
This is the point at which 85% lose my attention. They try to steer the conversation to describing the technology, or give a generic statement that uses either the word “platform” or “solution”.
I don’t want to hear about what language you are coding in. I don’t really care about which font you have chosen for your book. I don’t care when you started.
The 3 Ingredients of What We Do
Brad Feld says the “What We Do” Paragraph should be three sentences: (1) what we do, (2) who we do it to, and (3) why you should care. Sometimes this can be two sentences; sometimes four, but never more than a paragraph.
I believe the major risk of early stage startups is getting customers to buy, and showing that you can sell. The words “platform” or “solution” are indicative of an entrepreneur who has not spent much time with real or potential customers.
What are the first ten words of your next pitch, speech or presentation?
Participants of Wayra Week Barcelona 2012
I was at Wayra Week Barcelona this week working with 30 selected startup businesses to prepare their companies for growth and investment. All were looking to raise a round of venture capital financing for their businesses.
I spent a lot of time going from group to group asking “what are the first 10 words of your pitch for tomorrow?”
I received a range of replies:
“Huh. Oh. Ah. Yeah. My name is… and our business is …”
“We are a platform for connecting users to providers…”
“We have a solution for the publishing industry…”
“Hello. Thanks. I am very happy for this opportunity…”
“Uhh. Why? Only ten words…”
These answers are lessons in putting audiences to sleep.
Lets get it clear. Investors hear hundreds of pitches. They know they are probably not going to invest in your business and want to confirm this assumption as quickly as possible. They have years of experience in knowing when to switch off listening to the pitch and check their email on the blackberry, or plan their ski weekend. Why let them tune out before you have finished your first 10 words?
What should the first 10 words achieve?
We are not here to waste your time
We are professionals (we prepare well and practice lots)
We are a serious business
We know what you are interested in
We know what criteria you will use to take this decision
The first 10 words are vitally important. The first 10 words gets you attention for 30 seconds. You then have 30 seconds to earn attention for the next 5 minutes. If your first 10 words loses the audience, you will not get them back.
What are your first 10 words of your next pitch, speech or presentation?
I think there are only 3 ways to start a pitch. Interested?
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