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1. Stick the Landing

The science behind crafting memorable experiences

1. Stick the Landing - Page 3

If an initial public offering is the defining rite of passage for a startup, then an IPO road show is the trial by fire. It's a grueling, three-week pilgrimage to plead the company's case before as many as 70 separate gatherings of institutional investors, securities analysts, and portfolio managers. The road show is the toughest -- and most important -- sales call in a private company's history.

Enter Jerry Weissman. The 62-year-old former novelist and TV producer has established a virtual monopoly as road show guru to leading high-tech executives. Weissman, founder and president of Power Presentations Ltd., based in Santa Clara, California, has operated behind the scenes of many of history's most celebrated IPOs -- from computer giant Compaq to software innovators Intuit and Yahoo!

Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists seek his advice for one reason: Jerry Weissman knows how to talk to money. Don Valentine, the legendary venture capitalist, says Weissman's coaching added up to $3 per share to Cisco's price when it went public in 1989. "I wouldn't do an IPO without him," Valentine declares. He's not alone. Since Weissman formed Power Presentations in 1988, his 200 clients have raised $5 billion.

Weissman shared his lessons on how to talk to money with Fast Company.

Nothing beats a good story

An IPO road show is all about selling. And what is selling but good storytelling? I spend two full days working on "story" with my clients. That's different from the standard approach to presentations. Most executives prefer to just rearrange their old slides rather than have an original thought.

The greatest story ever told

There's only one story an IPO audience wants to hear: Why is your company an attractive investment opportunity? Executives typically spend their time making presentations to their partners or customers. But what's desirable for customers will not always benefit investors.

Jay Duncanson, a cofounder of Ascend Communications, is a superb presenter. He was a professional deejay and did all of Ascend's customer presentations. But during preparations for the road show, he kept talking about "Ascend's equipment and what you can do with it." Investors couldn't do anything with it. He had to paint a picture of what the MIS directors of giant companies were doing with it, and how that translated into returns for investors. When it comes to a road show, the only benefit that matters is ROI.

You are the author

No presentation exists independent of the presenter. A presenter has to own the material. In the case of a road show, that means the CEO or CFO must write the presentation.

A few years ago I worked with two companies in the same high-tech sector. The CEO of one of the companies busted his chops preparing his presentation, while the other CEO left it up to his marketing people. The two offerings were priced within a day of each other. The first went out at the top of its range, the second at the bottom. It wasn't a coincidence.

Hype doesn't help

Institutional investors see four to eight new companies every day, five days a week. They've heard everything. Presenters have to respond to that skepticism. Hype doesn't help. The most critical part of a road show presentation is the last 15 minutes, during the Q&A. Investors want to see how people stand up under pressure.

Every CEO on every road show gets asked the same question: "What keeps you up at night?" The best strategy is to admit what your problems are and then tell the audience exactly what you're doing about them.

Tim Koogle, CEO of Yahoo!, did that particularly well. When Yahoo! went out last year, it was competing with four or five other search-engine companies. Koogle responded to his audience's concerns by stressing the importance of brand identity. He talked about creating an image rather than a service. He preemptively answered the question: Why is Yahoo! different?

Attention must be paid

You have 45 minutes to persuade a skeptical audience about a company you've worked several years to create.

That means you need a great opening gambit. Scott Cook of Intuit is good at this. Here's how he started: "Allow me to begin today's presentation with a question: How many of you balance your own checkbooks?" Nearly everyone raised their hands. "And how many of you like doing it?" No hands went up. But he didn't stop there. He said, "There are millions of people all around the world who don't like balancing their checkbooks. Intuit has a product to solve that problem." That's a statement that catches the attention of investors.

Alex Frankel ([email protected]) is a San Francisco-based writer. His articles have appeared in "Wired" and "Red Herring."

1. Stick the Landing - Page 6

There's an art to giving a good presentation. If you're selling a brief to a client then you need to be confident and charismatic, and you need to know your pitch inside-out. You might greet the potential client with a briefcase full of facts and figures and a memorised spiel ready to rattle off at a moment's notice, but if you really want to impress your audience then these elements alone aren't enough. How important are presentation visuals to a successful pitch? We'd argue that they're vital. Take a look at just some of the reasons why a strong visual aesthetic can help you to give a far more persuasive pitch.

To engage the audience

Everyone has a limit to their attention span. There's only so long one can listen to someone boasting about performance statistics or extolling the virtues of their brand's approach. The last thing you need when giving a presentation is for your audience to become bored. Even if you're offering a tangibly excellent service, when the audience becomes disengaged the chances of your pitch being chosen are drastically diminished. Strong visuals incorporating 3D video, images and branding will help to keep the audience engaged for longer, giving you the time you need to give them the big sell.

To communicate your idea

In a good corporate presentation, visuals play an illustrative role. It's all well and good saying what makes your approach so great, but showing the audience some illustrative materials to support your argument will make your points a whole lot more persuasive. Visuals can be used to reinforce your arguments, and we aren't just talking about graphs and percentage points here. Keep your visuals fresh and exciting, so that when the decision-makers come to think back on your presentation, they come to associate the points you've made with a compelling image. It will help your points to stick in their minds for longer.

To save time and effort

Not only do visuals help to make your words more powerful, but they also mean that you can use fewer of them. 'Show, don't tell' is a maxim that should always be remembered when planning pitches and presentations. If you can communicate a fact, point or statistic through imagery, animation or video then do so - it will save you having to say it yourself. Effective use of visuals will help to streamline your presentation and make the whole process briefer, while simultaneously limiting the amount of script you're forced to remember. Brief is better when it comes to presentations, and strong visuals can help to keep yours short and sweet.

To keep them invested and excited

More than anything else, however, visuals can be compelling and exciting. Your presentation is an opportunity to wow your audience, and you're unlikely to do that by droning on about statistics for 15 minutes. To make a really arresting pitch you need to do something memorable, and here at Buffalo 7 we're just the people to help you do so. We use the latest presentation technologies to create jaw-dropping visuals, guaranteed to help keep your audience's attention until the end. If you'd like to find out more about how our creative team can help you deliver a winning pitch, contact us at Buffalo 7 today.

Ch. 5 Section 2: White Paperâ–º

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