We have all attended pitching events–either as listeners, some type of judges or presenters. I have an opportunity to get acquainted with new business ideas, new entrepreneurs and teams on a weekly basis. In most cases presenters are well prepared and we can all see that a lot of thought and work have been put in to the presentations. In some unfortunate cases we see ad-hoc pitches with no content at all. But those are a rare minority.
Somehow it is in our culture to criticize presentations – we do try to find the weak spots and mistakes: is the body language correct; is there enthusiasm in the voice; is the language perfect; are the slides beautiful and self-explanatory? But are these speech techniques, sometimes even rhetoric issues, really relevant?
Let’s Turn Things Upside Down – at Least Sometimes
I was lucky to have professor Tapani Jokinen as my teacher at the Helsinki University of Technology. As a matter of fact I had the pleasure of working as a teaching assistant at his laboratory. One of the courses dealt with systematic ideation techniques in product development. One of the basic techniques to think differently is to turn everything upside down, think vice versa.
Let’s sometimes compete in listening and understanding skills rather than presentation skills.
Next time when we meet a team or an entrepreneur with a new idea let us ask ourselves:
- Did we help others attending the pitching venue–be it a face-to-face meeting, pitching competition, or panel presentation–to better understand the business or innovations we were told about with our questions and comments?
- Were we well prepared for the event?
- Did we ourselves understand the idea or the business?
- Do we know the market well enough to comment on it? Did we really attend the meeting and pay all of our attention to presentation, did we concentrate–or did we actually attend to our emails?
For once I would like to attend a pitching forum where the listeners were put on the spot. We could compete on who actually understood what was presented, who had the best advice who really did have an input for the entrepreneurs’ ideas. That could really be exciting.
In some cases I have been a bit embarrassed on behalf of the audience. Young entrepreneurial teams have worked hard to present their case but the ones that are supposed to give an opinion and help the team forward couldn’t care less of what’s happening. They tweet, send and read emails, discuss with each other and have not prepared themselves for the meeting. Quite impolite behavior, indeed.
So, next time you have an opportunity to participate in a pitching venue, please be encouraging and supportive towards all the presenters. Get acquainted with their business ideas, markets they plan to address and think if you have experience in a similar situation. Be prepared and get interested. Agreed?
Related reading: Interesting article in PandoDaily mentioning Steve Blank’s view on demo days as “beauty contests in bikinis for investors”. Style over substance, indeed.
Picture credit: studiobeerhorst