Business Leadership: C-Suite Language


Lisa Stone, Co-Founder and CEO, BlogHer (moderator) @lisastone
Lila Ibrahim, Investment Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Rachel Pike, Investment Professional, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFP)
AC: Amy Chang, Director of Measurement and Reporting Initiatives, Google

Lisa: How do go about preparing for a meeting to ask for resources from a CEO? How do you prepare?

Amy: The first thing I do is understand how the person approaches the situation. I try to understand the person I will be presenting to. Understand who you will be presenting to. Be fluid and flexible to the dynamics of who you are meeting with.

Lisa Stone with Lila Ibrahim

Lila: Key words – knowing who you are talking to. Also knowing what their goals are. Tell you story in a way that is relevant and will help them to move their goals forward. Surprised by the quantity of people that reach out to VCs with pitches. It is important for folks to make the link to what resonates to me as a VC and my background. Don't lose your authenticity during the pitch meeting. Be authentic and passionate. You need to sell yourself as a competent and capable person.

Rachel: We get pitched in a group setting. So the person may lose control of the conversation because of these dynamics. There are few things you have to do to be successful. First, you need to have 1on1 meetings prior to the final meeting. Two arm yourself with data. Finally have your one-liner crystallized at the front of your presentation. It is important to get everyone on the same page.

Lisa: How much time should you provide for preparation? What is the right number of slides for a pitch or board meeting? And how do you plan for this time with them?

Rachel: There is definitely not a right number of slides but there definitely is a WRONG number. First the slides should be 5-20 with few words on them. Also they should not be a crutch for you.

Lila: Pictures can tell a story as much as words. Don’t include too much text in a bullet. Don’t talk to your slides.

Rachel: Remember the slide that you present in person should be different than the one you send to get a meeting. Tailor your content to the information.

Amy: Every 10 minutes of presentation time should equal 1 slide. Reading from the slide is a big-big no no.

Lila: 3 minutes per slide is a good guide. Nothing below 24pt font size.

Amy: Whatever you do, don’t use your slides as a crutch. Use visuals to help you tell your story.

Lisa: What is the wrong number of slides?

Rachel: It depends. In a pitch over 30 is too much. If your business is that complicated you may not understand it or you are putting in too much data.

Amy: I like to see the demo. Jump to it as soon as possible to keep me engaged.

Lisa: Let’s talk about the financials for a minute. A point was made yesterday that you need to know your stuff. How many of these numbers do you really need to know yourself?

Lila: When I was at Intel, I tried to get the best finance person I could since this was not my strong point. Know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with the talent that will complement you. There are certain things you as a CEO will need to know. Period. If you are not sure the board members will challenge you. If you don’t know the answers don’t fudge it. Admit and commit to coming back with an answer.

Rachel: You need to know the basic metrics of your business. You need to know the basic drivers of your business at a unit level. Investors are going to ask you WHY. What you want is a competence in your business at a macro and a unit level.

Lisa: Big picture. Continually being able to understand what is happening with your buisness has been important for us.

Amy: Knowing the story behind the WHY is so very important. You need to be able to explain variances in your business, data, external trends, etc.

Lila: Where do add value in c-level conversations. You need to bring everyone you are meeting with in the conversation.

Lisa: You need to talk “with” people. “Don’t sell me” –ask me.

Audience Member: How do you pitch to groups who don’t get a connection with your vision and get them as passionate as they are? I just started EGGsurance.

Amy: I think you should start with a story of human emotion. Open up with a case study.

Audience Member: How personal do you want to get?

Amy: I would keep it as someone else's story.

Lila: I agree.

Audience Member: Cat Posey -- Tech by Superwoman, Can you provide advice for strategies for pitching to folks electronically or effectively via email?

Rachel: Make it interactive. But eventually you may have to move to Silicon Valley. The best way to do it remotely is to open with a demo. Video or visuals are good.

Lila: Be very selective of the events that you attend.

Audience Member: I built my relationships mainly online. I nurtured them online as well.

Lila: Figure out what keeps you refreshed and keep doing it.

Audience Member: In the startup phase how can we effectively build up our products before presenting to investors?

Rachel: It depends on the investors. But if you can build an mvp first and test it that would be good for the investor and testing the business idea. I would strongly encourage you to build a mvp product first.

Amy: There are so many tools available now that you can build an mvp in about a month and you will learn a lot.

Lisa: How far do they need to go to show your products have traction?

Audience Member: It is relatively easy to get a product built. Even angel investors like to see an mvp. Kim Phalasee I have started a few companies and done some angel investing as well.

Lisa: Kim is being very modest but you should learn more about her.

Lisa: How do educate the person you are pitching to without lecturing to them? A young entrepreneur recently visited me. He began to lecture me and I didn’t feel like I was part of the conversation with me and it became a bit of a lecture. It was a bit of a turn-off.

Audience Member: What do you recommend if you're in the meeting if they're talking down to you or dressing you down?

Rachel: Sometimes the messaging between entrepreneur and investor just isn't a fit. Sometimes you have to walk away.

Amy: I would see the meeting through, thank them for their time.

Lisa: Everything you do reflects your personal brand. How you handle being insulted or another awkward exchange. Handling it gracefully can make your brand but melting down can break you.

Audience Member: My dad once said I should ask myself "What am I defeneding?" can help you keep from getting flustered and learn from their ambivalence.

Lisa: How do you establish yourself confidently and with humor? Does what you wear matter?

Rachel: Best advice I ever received: You have to speak up. Ask questions. You'll be surprised how people will respect you for asking "Why?"

Amy: It matters what you wear. Anything that distracts or doesn't look professional undermines your credibility. We don't all have to look the same but looking professional opens minds. An executive coach once said to me, "You dress like you're 21 years old but you're not. It's not helping you." Changing what I was wearing changed people's perspectives of what I said.

Lila: I've been through parts of my career where I felt like I'd lost my mojo and was miserable because I wasn't being true to myself. Sometimes I felt empowered, "I'm gonna show you" but other times it knocked me for a loop. Look at what others are wearing and think about how to dress both to fit in and for the job you want.

Audience Member: Have you found that changing your tone of voice, i.e., a lower octave, is of help?

Amy: I read the other day that men process women's higher voices in the same part of the brain where they process music. So it may be true that if your voice is higher pitched that it might be of benefit.

Audience Member: I also talk fast so I've learned to add strategic pauses.


[Editor's note: The transcript above reflects what the liveblogger heard, to the best of her ability, but is not a verbatim transcript of the session. As such, it may contain abbreviations or paraphrases.]

Bloggers: * BJ Wishinsky @leapingwoman
* Kimberly Bryant @blackgirlscode