By Isaac “Yitz” Applbaum and Dan Cohen
We are often in meetings with talented entrepreneurs who have great ideas but also have a hard time communicating them. This isn’t uncommon. Founders often have great vision, but are so deep in the weeds of solutions and jargon that they struggle to make their vision accessible to angel investors or journalists who don’t share the expertise.
With 2015 looming, now is a great time to take stock of how you are talking about your product, your company, or your vision. You can take a moment to challenge yourself to think about whether the way YOU want to communicate about your idea truly recognizes that there is someone on the other side of the conversation that you are trying to engage . . . and whether you are reaching them in a way that will drive action.
Great communicators are humble. They recognize it’s never about what they want to say. Instead, it’s about what the person on the other side of the conversation needs to hear in order for them to do what you want them to do.
Here are some suggestions on how to use the winter break to up your game.
Tell a story.
Imagine sitting with a talented entrepreneur, one with a game changing idea and boundless energy, but who takes thirty minutes to walk through the opportunity she sees. Sound familiar?
What if, instead, she could share a quick story to describe the opportunity ahead? It makes a world of difference. Telling a powerful and granular story can take a complicated set of technology tools and instead place them squarely in the realm of the everyday.
Here are some leading questions to consider.
- Do you have a story about how your product or service can uniquely solve a billion dollar problem
- Could you put a personal face on that?
- Have you turned one of your customers into an internal superstar by revolutionizing their results?
- Is this a replicable model?
- Finally, is there a granular fact that is memorable?
Use plain language.
While your service or product might be a complex technology solution, perhaps think first about whether your audience is ready to dive down into the weeds with you. A rule of thumb could be that if you aren’t talking to an industry veteran of 10 years, try to use plain language like you are talking to a friend over a beer. Instead of “demand centered lead generation,” maybe consider “we help people use technology to sell products to big companies at the moment they are ready to buy.”
What entrepreneurs are doing can be so powerful and transformative. However, in speaking to potential investors, the idea gets lost in industry jargon.
One solution can be to consider replacing some of your lingo with plain-speak. You will have thousands of conversations each week. Try to use each one to balance your tech-talk with compelling and easy-to-understand language. Remember, one thing you want the investor or strategic partner to be able to do is communicate what you want them to take away from the conversation long after you have engaged them.
There is one caveat. Often there are “hot” buzzwords that can connect your idea to a larger movement or trend. It is a good idea that if you are going to connect your idea to a buzzword (like “Big Data”), that you can quickly and plainly articulate your unique connection. It will be a very crowded landscape.
What is your 7 year vision?
Entrepreneurs can often achieve overnight success . . . but after seven years of hard work. It is a very fine line to balance the immediacy of the opportunity you present to an investor or customer, with the picture of a long-term and stable partner. A few ways to challenge yourself may include:
- How can you transport an investor 5-7 years into the future and paint the most vivid portrait of what success looks like? Is it a compelling vision?
- What validators do you have that agree with you that you can cite or quote?
In the technology space, everyone is in a rush or at least acting urgently. Money is oxygen and time is the true enemy. Coach John Wooden of UCLA used to say to “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Adding a sense of urgency, while bathing it in your confidence to achieve the vision, may be a great place to start. And if you aren’t sure if it is working, test it out at your next holiday party.