Misc. Helpful Advice

Four Keys to Writing the Best Elevator Speech

Every entrepreneur, sales person, policy-maker, and project manager knows the importance of having a well-written elevator speech. This elevator speech has two major components. First, this speech, also known as an elevator pitch, is a short summary used to describe a person, profession, product, service, organization, or event. Often, the second component is the most important part of the elevator speech since it discusses the monetary value or need relating to the topic. Over time, the elevator speech was refined to require no more than thirty seconds to two minutes for delivery.

Some people confuse the elevator speech with a sales pitch. A sales pitch has props (the product or item being sold) and can take up to 30 minutes to deliver. The elevator speech is all about using a brief amount of conversation time to deliver an interesting idea that will add value to the business of the person with whom you are speaking. It is in those few seconds that you want to get the person hooked on your idea so that you can continue the conversation, exchange business cards, or schedule a meeting.

Here are four keys for writing success related to your Elevator Speech:

  1. Keep it Simple.

Select each word carefully. Time with your thesaurus is critical for success in writing your elevator speech. Choose words that are well known. The elevator speech is not the time to try to wow the listener with big words. You want to write a speech that everyone with an eighth grade education or higher can understand. Realistically you are pitching to people who have a higher level of education but in this quick delivery, you may not have their full attention so you want something that they can listen to, understand, and get excited about without deep thought.

  1. Keep it Flexible.

Have three to five elevator speeches prepared. You may need one that speaks to the technical level of the project, idea, or product. This version is best delivered to people with a higher appreciation of technology. In my experience, you need the following types of speeches ready: 1) technical, 2) earnings/income potential related, 3) amount of time it will take to deliver on the concept or product, 4) who you need on the team to help make this idea a success, and finally, 5) what resources you need. Once you have delivered the speech and captured your targets attention, you need to be ready to speak with others who will be brought into the conversation and you need to seize their attention quickly.

  1. Have it written out so you can practice the delivery.

Use a 3 x 5 index card and have your speech typed out and ready for you to review and practice for delivery. You may be standing in line at a coffee shop and see a person that you want to walk up to and deliver your elevator speech. Having a 3 x 5 card with your speech written out lets you have a quick review and gets you prepared for your delivery. In addition, it is critical that you practice the delivery aloud.

  1. Grammar matters, but Flow is critical.

Grammar is important but our speech patterns can sometimes be different from what we write on paper. Do not focus on the comma or semicolon in writing out your elevator speech. Most importantly you need to make sure it is easy to say/recite and that you are completely comfortable sharing your idea. One additional idea is to have a friend or family member deliver your elevator speech. If they have trouble with the delivery, your flow is not yet right.

Follow these four keys and you will be able to have success in delivering your elevator speech. When in doubt, seek professional help from speechwriters, editors, others because a great elevator speech might help you get your idea across and lead to your next promotion.

5 Tips for Managing Unruly References

As authors research information to help support the work in their paper, they spend a great deal of time reading references. All too often we wind up with a stack of papers or computer files full of references. These references are important so that authors can cite the information from other sources that they wish to use to either support, acknowledge, or contradict their research. How do we organize and choose the correct references? In this blog we share five easy steps for managing references.

 

1. Sort your references into categories.

 


Most papers have an introduction, materials and methods, results, and conclusion/discussion section. It is best if you sort your references into those categories. The introduction should use references that provide historical information relevant to the paper topic. References used in the materials and methods should help the reader know why the author decided to use particular methods and how those methods are best utilized. When we select references for the results, they can be sub-categorized into those that support or contradict the data. The conclusion/discussion section draws once again on references that support the historical context necessary to understand the work and these references must also aid in the discussion of the relevant data.

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2. Use quality references.

It is important to use the most original reference possible. Additionally, authors need to use up-to-date and reliable references. The authors want to use references that have been peer-reviewed by leaders in the topic field. Peer-reviewed references have been checked for errors by knowledgeable reviewers well-versed in the field being studied.

3. Select references that are easy for people to access.

As our ever-expanding world of technology makes more information available, this is an easier step to manage. Still, we most often should select references that are in the same language as the paper being presented and easy to access by everyone with either access to the internet or a library.

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4. Keep the references to a manageable number.

Unless you are writing a review article and need to tie in the information you are sharing with an extensive number of other papers, select only the most pertinent sources. If a point needs to be validated by external references, this is most often accomplished by referring to three or four sources from unique author sets. Using a few select but widely accepted references that trace back to experts in the field will help readers of the paper being presented better understand the importance of this new work to the field of study.

5. Have all your references printed or in electronic format and easy to access.

In this new day and age there are multiple electronic programs that can be used to sort, catalog, and manage references. All too often people focus on getting the references into these bibliography programs and forget that it is the content of the reference that is critical. Authors need to have the abstract and a few notes about the paper easily accessible and a copy (printed or electronic) of the complete paper should be available. By having the information readily available, it alleviates improper citations and the possibility of plagiarism.

Follow these five suggestions and you will find that managing your references becomes less of a chore!

5 Things To Do Before Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

As our economy changes, more people are starting businesses, developing and marketing product that will make a difference for the world, and reaping the rewards of being an entrepreneur. All entrepreneurs have the drive and passion but many lack the preparation. Without preparation, the largest hurdle for most entrepreneurs is the financial success. Many people start with great ideas only to crash and burn nine or eighteen months down the road. Here are five things that every entrepreneur must do before he or she charges down the leadership path of entrepreneurship.

1. Take care of your personal finances.

The key here is to pay down your personal debt. If you are carrying more debt than you can handle with your current employment, it is time to downsize and pay off or eliminate debt before you follow your entrepreneurial spirit. Develop a monthly budget that you can stick to and takes into consideration emergencies such as car repairs, medical bills, and extra household expenses. Make certain you have at least a 12-month reserve of money to pay your bills. As an entrepreneur, you might not get your first paycheck for many months so be prepared to pay your bills from savings.

2. Make certain any of your contractual obligations will not affect your focus.

Look over previous employment contracts and make certain what you are deciding to pursue will not be in violation of that agreement. Review all current agreements you are involved with and if you plan on working part or full time as you follow this dream, make certain you can explain to your current employer how this will not affect your work performance.

3. Limit your distractions.

We all need to have our “fun” and have time for family but it is critical that anything outside of family time be evaluated for how it may take away from your focus on entrepreneurial activities. Keep in mind that you need a few diversions to help you balance your health and mental welfare but you just might have to give up a few of the extra-curricular activities. As a good way of planning your time, limit those extra activities to no more than 90 minutes a day on average.

4. Clean up your social media look.

You are going to be meeting with investors, bankers, potential partners, and of course, those who will purchase your product/idea/service and you need to look professional. Of course, you will dress the part but many of the people you will meet might check out your Facebook or Linked-In profiles, stop by your Instagram or Twitter accounts, and even read your blog. Sometimes when we are having fun, we might post pictures or say things we do not want to share as an entrepreneur. Clean up that image and show your best side.

5. Have a 12-month plan.

This plan needs to include your personal as well as entrepreneurial/business budget. Write, rewrite, edit, review, and seek counsel from trusted friends, colleagues, or professionals on the business plan. Include your vacation, medical appointments, and important events on the calendar portion of your 12-month plan. All of these ideas are very important for people setting off on entrepreneurial projects. The important thing to note is that these ideas also apply to anyone wanting to apply for a new job, write that first book, or set out on any new adventure.

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10 Surefire Tips for Securing Capital Investment

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1. Protect your idea with a patent/copyright/trademark.
Depending on your business venture, you will need to take precautionary steps to protect your idea. This may involve filing a patent, copyright, or trademark. In any of these cases, it is important that you develop quality documents, easy to read figures, tables, and graphics so that the reviewer can determine the merit of your work. Venture capital investors may want to review these documents and along with your business plan, this might be the first impression of you and your capabilities.
Please remember that these protections do not keep someone else from trying to develop your idea, but they do give you the right to fight it out in court.

2. Write an excellent business plan.
Your business plan is a dynamic document. One investor group may need a particular format while another group may ask you to present the plan in their preferred review layout. The business plan needs to state who you are, what you are doing, why you need investment, the scope of the market (what is the valuation of the market), how you intend to proceed with the investment, and what the return on investment will be should someone invest. Most importantly, the business plan needs to be grammatically correct and have no spelling errors.

3. Have your business plan vetted and reviewed by experts in the field.
You need to take the time to have someone in your field read your business plan. Possibly a trusted colleague or a subject matter expert/reviewer/editor can help you with noticing the little things that are missing. These people can also help find areas of weakness in your business plan. With investors, you often have one opportunity to impress. Make sure that you put your best and most developed idea forward. In the business plan, it is important to point out how much you are investing of your own money into the idea.

4. Valuation is important.
Spend time thinking about the valuation and show that you did some real work on the projections. Find a banker or investor who might give you some time and help you develop the corporate valuation.

5. Develop a slide show.
To go along with your business plan you will need a slide deck that puts your business plan into pictures, graphs, text, and images that people can review. Many people are visual. Reading a long business plan may not be the first choice some individuals. Give them a slide show that they can scroll through and begin to “see” your idea.

6. Have your marketing plan developed and ready to show.
The success of many businesses comes with the marketing plan. It may seem like having your marketing plan all developed is not going to help you gain investment, but the truth is that investors will be far more impressed if you can show them the details of how you plan to make money on your idea and their investment.
Consider having flyers, a short video, and other items that will help you market to your target demographic. It is important to note that by developing your marketing, you will be able to fine-tune the demographic most likely to purchase your product or idea. Make sure to have all the documents, videos, and flyers proofread by multiple people. Nothing ruins a good marketing plan more than having bad grammar, typos, and spelling errors.

7. Invest your own money in the venture.
Invest at least a few thousand dollars in your new business. If you are not willing to invest, why will someone else want to loan you money? The capital investment you put in represents a material percentage of your net wealth and shows that you are dedicated to the success of the project.
Many entrepreneurs tell everyone about the sweat equity they are putting into the business. The truth is that everyone starting a new business is putting this type of effort in and potential investors expect this effort.

8. Have a working prototype available.
Investors do not want to take on product-development risk. If your idea is fabulous, they may take this risk but they will likely want a larger portion of your company. Have a working prototype available for review. A working prototype shows the investor that the development and proof-of-concept risk is mitigated.

9. Acquire Investment first from “friends and family.”
Many investors want to see that you have raised money from friends and family because it validates that people who know you think you are capable of making this idea come to life. How much should you seek from friends and family? This depends on your idea but $25,000 to $50,000 is a good sign that you are seen as capable and competent by family and friends.

10. Generate revenue.
This is a difficult task but very important. The company does not need to be making millions in the first month but a small amount of revenue will show that you have a good marketing plan and your idea is moving forward.

On a final note, raising capital is challenging and time consuming. If you take these ten steps, you will be better prepared to be a success in the capital investment round of funding.