Sound bites for success

How can you deliver a clear message?

There’s lots of information about the investor pitch (see our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, “Elements of a pitch deck”). Building a deck is one thing — delivering the message is quite another.

I recently reconnected with an old colleague, David Doze of Pilot PMR, who has helped shape a number of key messages for my companies. With a little liquid encouragement, I convinced him to help package a program for some my early-stage clients: “Sound Bites for Success.”

In our room of 12 CEO’s, David lamented that “The world does not need more information, more fine print or more arguments – leaders need to take the complex and make it digestible.”

Here, his three guiding principles of messaging:

  1. Relevance – Do you have the right message to “cut through the clutter”?
  2. Reputation – Do you have the credibility to pull it off with conviction?
  3. Reach – How do you get the message out to the audience who has a different view of the world than you?

David suggests the following road map for building these key messages:

Understand your audience and their orientation – This seems obvious but you would be surprised how often it is overlooked. I recently observed a CEO present her story to a very sophisticated prospect in charge of a large corporate empire. Our CEO unfortunately had limited understanding of the organization that they were pitching to. It was too bad as the meeting could have had a more fruitful set of action items had our CEO been better prepared.

Frame your message – A frame provides context and helps ensure that the message gets embedded into memory for future recall. This lasting message helps you stand out in a crowd. I observed an investor pitch last quarter in which the CEO had a half-hour before the decision-maker needed to leave the meeting. The CEO and potential investor had some historical linkage to some common industry leaders. Unfortunately, the session was framed a an introduction of the company to the potential investor. The digression into “who do you know” became a distraction and blurred the main purpose of the meeting. The event timed out without key messages being delivered.

Be authentic and make credible statements – One of the easiest ways to do this is to present claims that are defensible with proof. We observed a company pitch their story to some angels last month. The claims about the product were all-encompassing: it sliced, it diced and made coffee too! The CEO was labeled as a “promoter” who was blowing smoke–the claims were not reasonable. This clearly was not the lasting message our CEO wished to convey.

Make the intangible real – An inventor is clearly proud of the complexity of their technology and its ability to serve many practical applications. I have observed too many presentations where the audience’s eyes glaze over with the level of detail and its applicability to this or that sector. Entrepreneurs need to focus on the highest margin opportunity and simplify what the product or service can actually do in plain and practical language.

Leave a lasting picture – You will want your audience to be talking about your company long after you have left the stage. At our Sound Bite competition we went around the room and asked the question: “What did you remember most?” It was surprising what key messages were clearly lost in the fog.

Make messaging part of your priority for your next presentation. Make sure that your sound bites truly leave a mark.