Being instantly ready to tell the story of a startup to investors, reporters, or a video camera, is an essential skill that all core team members must master.
Telling a great story about your startup is an absolutely vital part of the Marketing process. You need to catch the attention of your potential audience, hook them and reel them in - to borrow the analogy of fishing. Your story must be powerful and engaging, with an arc of beginning, middle and end. Your story must also be true of course – we are not in the business of catching our audience by making claims that we cannot back up. This doesn’t mean that our story should be dull however – quite the contrary.
So, let’s say that the startup team have put in the hours to refine the story to the point where it is now really Shiny and ready to be taken out into the world. There are meetups to attend, potential investors to speak to, some media appearances, and so on. Up to this point either everyone has been presuming that the charismatic Founder will be the main storyteller, except… Well, exactly how media-ready is the great leader?
Some Founders feel that they are ‘selling out’ if they tell shiny stories, and even more so if they tell the story in a way which is professional and to the point. And then on top of all that, ask them to get a haircut, or speak without saying ‘Um’ every fourth word!
Charismatic genius types
There is sometimes a cult of unprofessionalism in new startups that perhaps goes back to the Silicon Valley hipsters who began the tech revolution: ‘Those guys had baggy t-shirts and didn’t speak too clearly, so why should we!’ But that was then, and this is now. There are far more startups chasing investors, and investors are far more picky than they once were. Investors want to see extremely professional offerings, and that includes the persona of the company Front Runner. It’s true that there’s still room for the occasional charismatic genius-type visionary company leader, but it’s a very small niche.
Think of your own experience at conferences and meetups. Who impressed you most? I’ll bet it was the confident person who bounded onto the stage, looking healthy and full of energy. They spoke well, and didn’t try to tell you every single tiny detail of their company. And if they were wearing a t-shirt, it was probably clean and un-wrinkled. They gave eye contact to their audience, and even if their hair was long, it looked like it had seen a shower in the last month. In other words, they were personable. Someone who is personable is likely to increase the confidence of investors. A confident investor then invests. Simple?
Nice to do but not essential?
Yes of course it’s simple, but for many startups it falls into the nice to do but not essential basket. However, people buy from people, and believe it or not, investors are people too! They respond to a story which is well structured, and well-told by a real human being who cares about communicating. It’s the duty of everyone on a startup team to therefore push their Front Runner to become ever more confident and able to deliver the company’s story in a clear and effective way, looking like they truly mean it. Don’t be shy about telling your Front Runner that they have to up their game – their failure to do so will affect everyone’s chances of success. And on the other hand, if they are able to improve their audience-facing skills, then everyone benefits.
Stepping up to the plate
Here’s a problem though: what about the day your Front Runner has a headcold, or is in a different country and can’t meet with that all-important potential investor? Who does the enterprise turn to then? There have to be ‘Sub Front Runners’ available to step in at any time. And guess what? – They too have to be able to tell a very Shiny story, convincingly and well. They too have to be media-ready, to attend meetings or conferences. It’s a team thing, and just because the Founder is at the forefront of the business doesn’t mean everyone else can relax. Everybody in the core team must be ready to say ‘Cheese’ to the cameras, convincingly.
Think about it, how many of your team are truly ready to tell a shiny story?
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