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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Presentation 101 – Please do not do this!

I often have the opportunity to listen to first time entrepreneurs and early stage companies present their company.  This occurs in multiple venues and I have been doing this for several years.  One particularly fun event includes co-hosting (with Plazabridge Group) a forum referred to “Deal Desk.” Deal Desk is the opportunity for early stage companies to present for 15 minutes and then a group of experienced professionals provide feedback and/or addresses a key issue the new company may want to discuss.  

Plazabridge has a group of talented entrepreneurs with startup experience in sales, marketing and IT; I usually cover healthcare.  The mix of entrepreneurial reviewers is useful in providing advice and feedback to early stage entrepreneurs and their startup.  I must warn in advance that I am the “Simon Cowell” in the Deal Desk group! I also provide steps as to how to address short comings, but am never sure the entrepreneur hears all of them.  In other venues, you will be safe; I am much less aggressive.

The result of seeing presenters in different types of meetings is that some trends emerge which are the PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS TYPE for your first presentations.  I read a lot of articles on startups and some deal with making killer presentations. This is not one of those articles.  I am going to encourage you to do your homework and address the following before you ever make your first presentation.

Tell what the product is :  In multiple presentations over the years, I have listened to scientists and business professionals present.  It always amazed me that in a number of these the presenter fails to define the product.  The listeners are trying to help, and hate having to stop you in mid-presentation or at the end to ask: “what are you making, what is your product, or what is the service you are offering?”  Your presentation suffers and listeners stop listening when they do not understand what you are doing.  Please address this up front and help set the framework for the listener to follow you better.

Who is going to buy the product :  This is really an issue of describing your target market.  It is important to know if you are selling to a group of 100 or require a mass market direct to consumer selling campaign.  You really need to address this issue and should have addressed it in your business plan. So don’t leave it out of the presentation and please tell us what your plans to sell the product are.

Intellectual Property :  How to you intend to develop a moat around your business?  Protecting the company from competition is an important consideration.  When asked about Intellectual Property, please know what you have as protection.  Repeating that you have a patent and not understanding what that means is not really helpful!  You do not even need patents, but you can describe that company Know-How is the protection and elaborate as to the fact that it is difficult to make the product without the Know-How.

Management Team:  One of the surest ways to make me believe you do not have any technology or products, is to spend most of the time talking about how great your team is.  This is an early lesion I was taught.  In one turnaround, I had to eliminate the technology but developed a great team to take the company forward when we found something new.  My presentation spent 70% of the time discussing the management, because there was not technology.  So, if you do not have anything, tell me.  I can try to help from there.

How is the product being developed:  I can only guess your plans if you do not tell me.  Timings, milestones, and areas of importance show you are seriously thinking about launching a product someday.  They also show you are end result oriented and help build confidence that you are well focused on a product launch someday. Telling that you plan to have a product that will address a critical need is extremely important.  Showing you have no clue how to create the final  product is not a good idea.  I am happy to give advice, but I do not want to write your development plan for you; at least, not for free.

Know your business:  I am always amazed that some entrepreneurs have not taken time to learn about the business sector they plan to launch into.  They show no evidence of understanding of the development path, how to manage a business, or lead a team!  How can you ever believe you will succeed if you do not understand the landscape you plan to compete in?  At least, tell me you have key advisors that will coach you in the area and you need help with.  It does not matter if you are a scientist learning business or a business person learning science.  You should be able to address the company and its direction. 

HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY WILL BUY:  It is interesting to describe your products as unique and possibly useful.  Often, a scientist or entrepreneur gets so attached to the technology and product they forget to ask potential buyers if they would use it.  This is a rather common trap for even experienced entrepreneurs.  In doing your market assessment, try to figure out whether your end users even care if the product ever is launched, how much they are willing to pay for it, and if they will use it.  This is part of your homework as well.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon