How to Win $20,000 in Twelve Minutes

As I mentioned in my last post about winning LaunchVT, I promised to take a look into what I believe helped me win. It wasn't my business idea.

It wasn't my slides.

It was my presentation.

Good presentation skills are hard to come by. And you know what? I'm not the best at them. I don't know what the magic formula is. I just know what works for me. These tips may work for you. If they do, let me know. If you think I'm crazy, let me know. Either way, let's move on.

Three things that helped me win $20,000 in 12 minutes:


1. Tell a captivating story

From my days writing for The Archway in college, to writing several books, my life has revolved around stories. They're the easiest way to talk about something because most people can relate to stories. Their not a bunch of facts. There's no number-numbness, enthusiasm fatigue, or overly-complicated messaging. You're simply telling a story. There's a situation, complication, and solution. Similar to when Rapunzel was rescued from the tower. She was up in a castle, trapped, and then she was saved. In once sentence, I just told a story.

How do you tell your 12-minute story?

Think about the situation your customers are in - what's their pain point? How are they arriving at your challenge? If you are your own customer, just tell your story. The complication is the problem your customers have - the reason you're in business in the first place. And the solution? It's your business! Keep this simple framework in mind when you're telling your own company's story.

Bonus tip: Stories flow when there are transitions. Make sure your slides help you tell the story visually and logically flow from one slide to the next.

2. Present with confidence

My Dad called me the night before my pitch. He had one piece of advice: "When you're up there, just remember, you know more about your company than everyone else in the room. And that should give you the confidence you need." He's right. This was my company. I knew everything: customer acquisition, pain points, revenue models, on-boarding, etc.

You know everything about your company.

Use this to your advantage. It's an instant confidence boost. I don't care how many times you need to remind yourself, write it on a piece of paper and stick it in your pocket if you have to. Good presenters ooze confidence. And even if they're nervous, they publicly display confidence.

3. Practice one hour for every minute of your presentation

This final tip comes from my former boss. He was obsessive about story-telling (#1 tip), clear communication, word choice, and presentation skills. I've often thought about how much rehearsal has gone into my past pitches and presentations. It certainly wasn't an hour for every minute. That would mean I rehearsed my LaunchVT pitch for 12 hours. It was probably even more than that when I think about it. Anyway, practice, practice, practice. You can never do it enough. As you run through your presentation, you'll start to solidify an outline of what you want to hit on each slide. That helps with hitting all the points on presentation day.

With those three tips, I won the first annual LaunchVT business plan competition. Like I said earlier, I'm not public speaking expert, but when I'm well prepared, I love it. I love getting in front of a crowd and introducing new ideas, telling my story, and inspiring people to take action.

What tips have you used to present like a pro? Let me know in the comments below.