TechStars demo day is always an exciting experience.
Not just for the ten brilliant tech founders who each pitched their business to an auditorium filled with big investors & VIP’s.
But also for the large audience that had gathered so early in the morning.
This was The Royal Institute in Mayfair, a space that rivals any West End Theatre. It’s an impressive stage, with the audience gathered on all sides, and can be daunting to anyone who has never taken on such expanse – and especially if English isn’t even your mother tongue!
Yet in spite of the obstacles, each and every CEO owned it. They took the stage, looked the audience in the eye, revealed their voice and showed genuine leadership in action. It was thrilling and alive.
Having worked with TechStars both in Berlin and now in London, I have learned that the number one factor that makes a winning pitch is – brace yourself – some genuine feeling. Not the BS razzmatazz, but some authentic delivery. I know .. strange!
Our strength does not lie in presenting a slick, polished, shiny self. Our strength lies in our shared vulnerability.
We cannot pitch our business ideas to an audience through the straightjacket of perfection. We’ll sound monotone and flat. It’s as if our humanity has been parked whilst we deliver our polished pitches … and then we resume “normal human behaviour” once we step off the stage. It’s an epidemic that breeds lifeless, fake and disingenuous pitches and presentations across all business – not just in tech. And it’s my mission to ensure leaders cut through the pretence to speak up with their real, most powerful selves.
Leadership and a winning presence is simply about acknowledging our fragility on stage and stepping up anyway. As my brilliant acting coach used to always tell me – invent nothing, deny nothing. Show up. Aim high. Try.
People often ask me …
“Amy how do I bring more of MYSELF to my pitch?”
The irony is that whenever ANYONE asks me that question, they’re already bringing their full self to the moment between us. I observe them smiling slightly, with a little nervousness showing through their facial expression as their passion comes through their voice. I see their hunger and a little of their inner story.
And my answer is always this…
“You’re doing it right now. Here you are. No technique needed. No BS pretence. Bring this part of yourself to your “performance”. Stay in this imperfect messiness and speak up anyway trusting that your message has value and needs no frills.”
That’s authenticity. Nothing to prove. No smoke and mirrors. Just truth, one breath at a time.
Having taken on some super tough roles, both in my real life and in theatre, I’ve learned that to create great work, we must fight for what matters to us. We have to dare to commit through blood, sweat and tears and regardless of what anyone thinks. We must know what we want, face the setbacks head-on, fail … and then fail some more… What stands in the way becomes the way. Embrace the difficulty and never loose sight of the prize.
The day you stop daring is the day you let your inner demons win. The day you loose sight of your purpose is the day your spirit crumples. And the day you hold yourself back for fear of disapproval is the day you loose.
So dare. That is all.