Know your audience before you start talking… This is not only the title of one of my earlier posts on this blog, but even more a piece of good advice for anyone who’s speaking in public. A group of people that also includes a growing army of young entrepreneurs, pitching in front of venture capitalists and potential investors to obtain the so desired initial funding to realize their dreams.
Not so long ago, I had the honor to be part of the jury for a (try-out) pitching session organized by a local business incubator. Among the 6 jury members were representatives of a regional business angel network, a few technology professionals (like me), and an investment expert from a major bank.
During the event, one of the startups was pitching a social app they developed for sports clubs. In an effort to accentuate his message visually, and probably to charm the audience and the jury too, the presenter-on-duty entered the stage dressed up in a colorful soccer shirt.
A great idea. Theoretically. The young guy made one wrong choice: the club shirt he was proudly wearing displayed in large letters the name and the logo of… a large bank. Unfortunately, not the one of the sixth jury member’s employer. But rather the one of its fiercest competitor in the market place.
Shit happens. The presenter delivered a great pitch for a nice product. But he won neither the hearts nor the (virtual) money of all jury members (guess which one wasn’t convinced?) A mistake that could have easily been avoided by conducting some quick, upfront research on who would be in the audience and in the jury (actually, the speaker should have known; the event was held at the bank’s HQ premises.)
I am currently visiting Australia for a public speaking engagement, combined with a series of customer meetings. And — unlike from other destinations ― I will take a small souvenir with me from Down Under.
When you add up the number of kilometers I have traveled during my career, I may have circled the globe more than 25 times. And now that the children have become too old to play with toys, and the collection of ‘exotic’ earrings, bracelets, and necklaces is filling my spouse’s entire jewel case, we decided that I should no longer feel obliged to bring home a little present from each single business trip.
But this time I made an exception, and I bought a gadget for myself. You may have seen them before: the black-on-yellow plastic road sign replicas that warn drivers for kangaroos, koalas or other wild animals crossing the road. Though I’m not an Australian wildlife expert, I plan to put up this sign on my cubicle wall to warn my colleagues (and remind myself) to beware of wombats.
Of course I will have to explain them first that the “wombat” word on my wall does not stand for an Australian marsupial, but that it is an acronym for Waste Of Money, Brains And Time. Among the activities that people (including me) perform at work, I tend to distinguish 3 major categories: the need to have ones, the nice to have ones, and the WOMBATs. Each of them has an obvious immediacy, a corresponding measure of relevance, and a decreasing order of importance.
I expect that my wombat will soon become a visual signpost at work. Next time when someone walks in and out my work spot, I’m sure that my little marsupial friend on the wall will remind him or her to focus on what’s really essential ― instead of wasting their and my scarce resources on something which may not be needed, cost-effective, or urgent at all…