Tips for life science entrepreneurs on making great speeches
I still remember how red-face frustrated one of my seed investors was after hearing my pitch to another investor in Month One of the business. “It’s a process,” he repeatedly said out loud — and I am pretty sure he was talking to himself.
While I’ve always been an adequate-to-solid public speaker, I struggled early boiling down my business in the way many other entrepreneurs easily managed (I got better by watching videos from DEMO).
But I have also suffered as if in a dentist’s chair when listening to entrepreneurs– so good at explaining their molecules, medtech patents and the market opportunity that earns them a $500 million valuation– speaking about themselves, life lessons or other topics that can return just as much value to their businesses as those investor pitches.
These are lost opportunities. And after talking with some of the entrepreneurs, here are my tips on public speaking to keep you from losing the room (and the opportunities in it).
Why are you there? The question is not “What is the subject of the speech?” or “Why did the organization ask you to speak?” or even “What does the audience want to hear?” The question is: What can you get out of it? Why did you or your marketing team decide that this is a strategically valuable place for you to take your time to get up and speak? What is the ROI? Is it a room full of buyers? Of investors? Of acquirers? Who do you want to reach? I once spoke to a room of 60 people but I only wanted to reach one, and tailored the speech accordingly. Answer the “why” and you have just given the speech the purpose and focus it needs.
Three talking points. Investor pitches are often afflicted by the curse of knowledge. Out of the element of a business meeting and just making a speech, entrepreneurs wind up just rambling. Based off why you are there, develop three points. Introduce yourself and your company, drive home those three points (detail dependent on length of talk) and summarize. Then take questions. People love to ask questions.
Spend just 5 sentences on the science. Unless this is an academic conference, attendees will disappear into their water glasses if the discussion focuses heavily on the research behind the company. Boil it down into five plain-spoken sentences at most.
Never digress and never, ever check your handheld. Every room needs to be owned. And checking your handheld for any reason or making a self-deprecating joke or digression is a sign you are either nervous or disinterested. And, with that, you have lost the room. Plus, going off on a tangent only increases the likelihood of saying something awful, off-color or proprietary that you will regret.
You aren’t Steve Jobs. You’re just you… and what does that mean? Not who are you with your kids or who are you behind closed doors with staff. But who are you as the public face of your company? What persona will impress the industry you’re in, inspire people to work for you, get you more press and lead your company to success as you and your investors define it? That doesn’t mean being a charismatic public speaker. It means someone who is genuine.
This is an investor pitch. Well, it’s not, but the principle is the same. The reason you pitch your business well is because you love it, know it and understand the value proposition. Use the same approach that’s made you successful there. Everything else is a digression.
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