Tips For A Perfect Pitch

November 30, 2011

Recently I attended the 26th Business Startup Show held at Earls Court (London) during 17 and 18 November. I don’t usually go to these types of events but I thought I’d give it a try, partly to see a couple of key talks, and partly to gauge the general atmosphere given the rather foreboding financial climate.

In the end I arrived after lunch and attended two talks, met up with a colleague and had a quick wander.

Overall, and somewhat to my surprise, the show put me in a really positive and optimistic mood! This was primarily due to the inspiring talks of Penny Power and James Caan (I’ll write about these separately) but also because of the general ‘buzz’ that was obviously around.

There was alot on show – over 250 seminars and 300 exhibitors – and a little of alot is often a good strategy to avoid exhaustion!

Browsing through the (180 page) brochure they sent me beforehand, I noticed a few pages that offered some very helpful hints and tips. One was on Tips for a Perfect Pitch. This was aimed at a particular event at the show, The Midas Touch, which sounded pretty gruelling. You had a 5 minute pitch to a panel, all in public so not for the faint-hearted!

However the advice offered is far more general and applies to many business interactions. I reproduce the points below. They’re all standard and in a way rather obvious – it’s just that many people violate a few and this is a serious disadvantage.

For example, some of them are handy to bear in mind when introducing yourself to someone whilst waiting in a queue for a presentation, as I found myself at one point!

I’ve reordered the tips so that the general points come first:

I never heard any of the Midas Touch pitches – I’ll definitely take a look at a few the next time I go – but in James Caan’s slot a couple of people made pitches (even though it was meant to be a Q&A session). It was interesting to see how the above hints are worth their weight in gold.

The main error was not making things clear and concise as well as giving a short snappy argument as to why they were (excitingly) different. In fact this is not covered in the advice above so I would also add

  • Be prepared for obvious questions and have convincing replies ready.

Following on from this, you need to be prepared to realise that pitching to yourself may be all you need to work out if you have a bright idea (or not) and whether you need more work on the proposition or best be brave and just abandon it for something better!

The 27th Business Startup Show is already being advertised for 17-18 May 2012. It is a free event and will be held at ExCel in London.

PS Regarding the list above, I must remember to smile a lot more – hopefully in a natural way 🙂

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Just Enough Knowledge To Be Dangerous

November 24, 2011

Interesting opinion piece in Ars Technica on how people can, on the basis of their expertise in one area, assume their way of thinking transfers to others:

I am focusing on physicists and engineers but, in fact, anyone can fall victim to this belief in their own expertise. Research shows that the less expert we are in some field, the more certain we are that our opinions and predictions are correct. The cynical view of this is that we are all stupid and don’t hesitate to exhibit our stupidity in public, but it’s more likely that we all know a little something about many different things. Unfortunately, what we don’t know are all the caveats, exceptions, and oddities that always accompany the general rules of any field.

In a business setting, I’ve noticed this effect many times. For example when you get mixtures of different business cultures, say sales and marketing people getting together with technical experts to discuss new product ideas. Each side often considers (ultimately) that their way of thinking about things is best. This can be a significant barrier to creativity as in general there needs to be ‘a greater degree of dialogue and conversation between sectors not just in closed conversations within them’ (see Ken Robinson).

In my consultancy work I’ve often focused on bridging these gaps, leveraging the fact that I’ve spent equal amounts of time in business and technical areas. This, over time, helps me build up trust and respect from both sides, allowing the removal of set views and barriers.

In fact it’s long been my opinion that identifying and cultivating staff who have a variety of different skills within an organisation is a smart way of catalysing innovation and it’s surprising that this isn’t done more often!

See also here (polymaths).


The Worst Passwords Of 2011

November 21, 2011

Here are the 25 worst internet passwords of 2011, as compiled by SplashData. The rankings are based on millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football

Hackers can easily break into many accounts just by repeatedly trying common passwords,” (SplashData CEO) Morgan Slain says. “Even though people are encouraged to select secure, strong passwords, many people continue to choose weak, easy-to-guess ones, placing themselves at risk from fraud and identity theft.

The above info is quoted from Mashable.


Seeing The Big Picture

November 16, 2011

Picture credit: here.


Are You A Freelancer Or An Entrepreneur?

November 11, 2011

From Seth Godin:

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run.

What you don’t want to do is act like a freelancer but really want to be an entrepreneur (or vice versa) – they’re quite different goals!


The Business Startup Show 17-18 November

November 9, 2011

The 26th Business Startup Show takes place next Thursday (10 – 6) and Friday (10 – 5) at Earls Court 2, London.

As the industry-leader, Business Startup is free for anyone thinking about starting a business or expanding a business. With over 140 seminars, over 200 exhibitors, advice, opportunities, and much more, can you afford to miss out?

If you’re thinking of attending, and to get most value out of a busy day, consider using their show checklist:

  1. Plan
  2. Identify
  3. Target
  4. Relax
  5. Record
  6. Network
  7. Follow-up

Emergent Strategy

November 3, 2011

Nice article in Forbes on cultivating emergent strategy:

We are not suggesting that companies spend oodles of money sending middle managers away on learning junkets or to management training programs. The type of learning we are talking about can be done on the job, as part and parcel of their usual activities, through social or collaborative “learning events” like webinars, knowledge exchange workshops, and short topical courses that have relevance in the moment.

It’s “just-in-time learning” – where groups of middle managers realize they have a need to learn something and so they agree to meet up to tackle a topic, learn some new context, share their own knowledge and experiences, and then take their learning right back to their jobs where they apply it immediately. Their successes then cross horizontally to other managers in other divisions, and perhaps they also trickle up the ladder where senior executives buy into them and convert them into a wider strategic view. This is how emergent learning becomes emergent strategy.

Pro: Now why is that so hard to do? It all sounds so easy and natural! In particular, if the atmosphere was right, knowledge cafes or similar could play a really useful role.

Con: Sadly, a very common response to all this is (still) ‘great idea, but there isn’t a cost code for that sort of thing…’.

Sometimes you just have to take a chance…