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IVMF Business Plan Lab | Presentation Tips

IVMF Business Plan Lab | Presentation Tips


Hello, this is John Torrents again with
the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, and today we are
going to go through our final session of the City Business Plan Competition Lab.
We’re going to talk about just some basic presentation tips. We’ve been doing
this for quite a while in terms of on-campus business plan competitions, and EBV’s had a business plan competition now for a couple of years, so we’ve seen
hundreds if not thousands of business plan presentations. Just from
watching how they go, and who succeeds, and who falls a little bit short, we’ve
just got a few things that we’ve noticed that can help you prepare. So
the main takeaway for today is we’re going to talk about the top 5 mistakes
to avoid. I can go through a list of things that you definitely should do, but
that’s pretty long, and at this point you’ve all done quite a bit of work. The
plan itself should be up to snuff. The rigor that you’ve put in has been
pretty high. So, in general, we’re usually not worried about the quality of the plan
at this point–usually where you shine is in the actual presentation. So, the judges
are generally told they have to look for the quality of the plan itself, but I can tell you from experience that even a marginal plan with an amazing presentation will still have a tendency to rise to the top. A great
plan with a great presentation is usually in pretty good shape. A poor plan,
even with a great presentation, still won’t really work. But the presentation
is sometimes just the icing on the cake, and that’s what puts you over the edge.
So I figured I’d talk a little bit about that. So, there’s five basic things: One is
just talking too fast (and we’ll go over a little bit of that in some future
slides). Lack of practice. Relying too heavily on your slides (which is a big
one that we’ll talk about). Failing to answer a question directly (that’s a big
problem). And failing to bring your answers back to your research. This is a pretty good tactic, or technique, to help focus and guide the Q&A and make it work to your advantage. So,
we’ll talk through all these, but before we start I just want to say congratulations
for getting this far. You’ve done an awful lot of work, and here at the
Institute we’re really proud of you and we can’t wait to see you compete. No
matter what happens, you’ve done great and you should feel really proud of
yourselves. And regardless of winning any money the competition, hopefully you feel
like you’re in the place where you can either raise some outside capital or
just bootstrap and start the thing on your own, and and that that’s really
exciting to watch. So, just real quickly–in terms of the the structure of
the presentations, you’ve got 15 minutes to present followed by five minutes of
Q&A. So, even though five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, it certainly can feel like a long time depending on how it
goes, and we’ll talk a little bit about how you can manage that. All right, so
talking too fast–and this is something that I struggle with myself. I talk pretty quickly, and my students often ask me to slow down, and I catch
myself doing this–it’s not normally a big deal, the only problem is that when
you talk really fast it can sometimes decrease your credibility. It sounds like
you’re fast talking. It’s often due to nerves, so if you just take a couple deep breaths before you start and engage in some positive
imagery, just kind of slow the whole breathing rate and your pulse down, and
think in very deliberate terms about what you’re going to say, then you’re usually okay. The key to calming your nerves down is just to remember that
everyone involved in helping you along the way here, and in watching, and
judging, is really rooting for you. Everybody wants to see you do well, so
it’s not an adversarial environment at all. It’s very natural to be nervous, but if you just calm down, view some positive images in your mind,
then hopefully you’ll be okay. So you want to you want to do things
that increase your credibility, not decrease them, and sometimes talking too
fast–like that the last 10 seconds of a pharmaceutical ad or
something–can decrease your credibility. Lack of practice. So, because we’ve worked
on this for so long, we know the concept really well, a lot of times we think we can just wing it or not really practice based on our slide. So,
you spend all this time doing the business plan you put all the time into
your slide deck, and then some people just think you can go up there
and do it. It’s very different to try to explain what’s going on in slides if
you haven’t really seen them or gone through them that much. So, since you only have fifteen minutes, one of the things you want to make sure you do is time it, so
you get the salient features out in time and you’re not rushing through the rest
of it and talking too fast and the things we talked about in the last slide.
So time it, make sure you get through it in 15 minutes. And one of the best tips I
ever got was to practice in front of a mirror, because that way you can just kind of see how your posture is–if you look confident, if you’re making a lot of
extraneous gestures. Some people even go so far as to video record themselves–that’s a great idea, but just getting that visual, just
understanding what you look like when you’re presenting is really helpful. And
again, a lot of it just comes down to the confidence you exude. And you have
five minutes for Q&A at the end, so if you have a friend or spouse or relative
who’s willing just to go through your plan and maybe come up with some
really tough questions to ask you at the end, that could be really helpful because
it’ll get the questions out there and let you feel a little heat before
you actually have to do this in front of the judges. Relying too heavily on your
slides–this is this is a mistake a lot of people make. The slides should be
there to amplify what you’re saying. You want the attention to be on you, and
you want to make that personal connection with your audience–whether
they’re investors, or they’re judges or whatever. If they’re looking at the
slide, they’re kind of disconnected from you. So you should have much less
information on the slide than you intend to parlay to the judges. So a couple of quick bullet points up there that help you understand
what you need to say, and then kind of view it as a performance–they
should be looking at you, you should be making eye to eye contact, you should be
engaging with them, you should see them shaking their heads. You should see all these positive affirmations that they’re with you.
You don’t want them just staring at the slide and having that be it.
So don’t use the slides as a crutch, and don’t try to cram too much information
into the slides. Really dense slides are a distraction and they’re a turn-off. I’ve heard from multiple investors that some of the best
pitches are the people who come in there without any slides, because they
just know what’s going on and they make that personal connection with
them. Of course you’re going to have slides, but don’t use them as a
crutch and don’t let them become a distraction where you rely on them too
heavily, and make sure they’re not too dense. Failing to answer questions directly. Probably the biggest mistake I see people made during the Q&A is to take on this politician type of aura, and talk and talk and talk and give a lot of information, but never
answer the question. That does a couple things: one, it deteriorates
your credibility, and two, it just really irritates the judges, because they had a
specific question in mind and now you’re talking and talking and not really
answering it and now there’s less time for them ask more questions. So, now you’ve just ticked them off and you destroyed your credibility and that
didn’t go anywhere. So don’t try to BS your way through an answer that you
don’t know–just simply say, “I don’t know, bur that’s a great question and I’d be happy to get back to you,” and then exchange information later. And when
you do that, when you say, “I don’t know,” then you get to move on right. But if you try
to make up an answer, or talk around it, or circumlocute the issue, then all you’ve done is open yourself up for more questions on the same thing, which you know you
can’t answer anyway. So say you don’t know, be honest–that demonstrates honesty, integrity, credibility–and then move on and hopefully you’ll get something you
can answer really, really well. It’s okay to take a few seconds
before you respond. If you just hear the question, you take a deep breath (which is how long it takes, it’s not that long), then you can gather your thoughts and give a thoughtful response. I’ve also seen people talking over the judges– so before the judges have even
finished formulating their question, the presenter is just talking already responding. That never goes over well, it assumes
you know what they’re asking already before they’re finished. So you
don’t want to do that either. And then finally: failing to revert back to your research. A lot of the answers to the questions you’ll get have already been determined
through your primary market research, your industry research, and so on. So, if
somebody questions you about your pricing–“Hey, what makes you think
somebody’s going to pay this for that product or service?” You can say, “Well,
based on the survey that I had, 200 people responded and 30% of
them said they’d pay this range and 50% said they’d pay that range.” Or, “How do you know people really want that?” Talk about your
validation, talk about all the things you’ve done. So whenever you possibly can, bring it back to the quality and the depth and the extent of your research–
and again, that builds your credibility, it puts the response squarely in a place
where you are able to answer the question based on something you’ve done.
That’s a very confident place to be speaking from. So whenever you can, just
bring it back to something you’ve already done, and relate it back to maybe your survey results, or your market research, or customer tests, proof of concepts, whatever. Bring it back to what you’ve done and you’ll be in a much better place and you’ll feel better about
answering the questions. A lot of times in the presentation you’ll talk
about all the things you’ve done already, but that’s the first time they’re hearing it, so they may not have really processed it,
they may be writing down a question while you’re explaining something. So going back through it and emphasizing it in the Q&A is perfectly
legitimate and it gives you credit for all the stuff you’ve already done. So
those are the five tips of things to avoid and I hope you’ve gotten
something out of these these lab sessions. I just want to say once again how really proud we are of everybody for going through this
process, and starting your companies, and looking to raise money for business plan
competitions, and you are exactly why we do this. We’re really proud of you, and
we’re really looking forward to seeing you in January. So good luck, and I just know you’ll be great.

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