Presenting to Win

Posted: May 6, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Marketing, People, Startup

“Up sluggard and waste not life, in the grave will be sleeping enough.”

— Benjamin Franklin

 Doug Hall of Eureka! Ranch fame often quotes one of our country’s earliest sages who regularly spoke in sound bites. Easily remembered, yet containing a powerful idea, every entrepreneur must master the skill of concise and clear communications.


Whether you are pitching to raise money, recruit volunteers or sell products and services, you must know who will be clapping for you. You wouldn’t read your Ph.D. thesis on Waardenburg Syndrome to a third grade class. You could explain the concept to a third grade class by using language familiar to their age group and environment. In fact, if you can’t explain your complex idea (product, service or strategy) using simple terms, then you really don’t understand it very well yourself.


While minimum viable products have become the rage in software development, minimum viable presentations can generate excellent results for entrepreneurs. In any public speaking event such as a Venture Association meeting, potential investor presentation or selling to a group, you have a limited amount of time to create a vision in your listener’s mind that is memorable and repeatable. The goal of your message is to get them to say “I just heard Todd speak about turning companies whose only customer was the NASA Space Shuttle program into commercialized businesses” to their colleagues, friends and investors.


In the 1990’s, this was called Buzz – and it still is. You want to create buzz with your messages. Buzz is the “Cacophony of other people talking about your product.” Do this by keeping your message limited to 2 or 3 major points. Most entrepreneurs love to tell listeners everything they know about their product. The challenge with this approach may cause the listener to choose just 2 or 3 of the 27 main points. Wouldn’t you rather choose which points you want them to remember?

FAQs and TAQs

Question and answer sessions can actually be the best part of your presentation. If you have done a good job and intrigued everyone with very high level ideas, then interested parties will want to dig deeper. That’s where you can shine – providing a snappy, well thought out (and rehearsed) answer will be a home run. Number one – you look smart by answering something they care about, and number two – the asker owns the answer, increases their confidence in you as an entrepreneur and you find out what is truly important to them.  I recommend creating a frequently asked questions list – and rehearse your answers to these questions so that you have a well delivered answer. A second list of TAQ’s or Tough-To-Answer questions is critical. What are the questions, if asked, that would make you cringe and squirm. Writing and rehearsing answers to these questions may exponentially increase your credibility. One of your answers may be a question back to them like, “Yes, we’ve been discussing that issue in our strategy meetings, do you have some insight that might help us get some clarity on resolving that?”  You are not expected to have answers to everything, and will be admired for your transparency when you say you need help getting to the answer.

Carnegie Hall

Finally, the answer to “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” applies to your presentations.  Practice, practice, practice. Give it to friends, family, people unfamiliar with your industry to get the best feedback. The more you do, the better you get.

Bill Cunningham is the co-founder of OneMorePallet, a new startup in the UpTech Accelerator, and shop foreman at the Greater Cincinnati V

  1. Lyden Foust says:

    I got to work closely with doug hall at the Eureka! Ranch. He ended every workshop with this quote. Ben Franklin pulled this one from proverbs 16:3.

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