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Alan Answers: Do You Understand The Basics Of Attracting Attention?

Whether you want to be a public speaker, find an investor or land a big sponsorship deal, the secret lies in how well you can tell your story.

Alan Knott-Craig

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I have always wanted to be a public speaker yet I’m very anxious about crowds and my public speaking is rudimentary at best. What should I do? — Lwazi

I was a terrible public speaker. I sometimes still am terrible. But I’m much better than I used to be. The way I got better was twofold. First, I’ve done hundreds of speeches, many of which were very embarrassing. The result is that I’ve overcome my fear of embarrassment (I’m still alive, turns out public humiliation is not fatal), and I developed confidence in speaking to crowds. Second, I read lots of books on speaking, including Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs.

My main takeaways from books are as follows:

  • Tell a story. People love a story.
  • Don’t read it. The easiest way to lose the crowd is to read your speech.
  • Keep slides to a minimum.
  • Have a memorable start and end. The middle is not so important.
  • Dress the part. Act the part. Don’t sabotage your speech by dressing sloppily. Put your shoulders back. Look confident.
  • Have a rational argument. Appeal to the logic of a situation.
  • Give background on yourself to establish your credibility. The medium is the message (read Marshall McLuhan)
  • Pull on the heart strings. Appeal to the audience’s emotions. Make folks laugh. They may forget what you said; they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

Public speaking is like swimming. Knowing the theory won’t stop you from drowning. You have to practice, practice, practice. You have to embarrass yourself regularly so you can overcome the fear of embarrassment. I’m told that Toastmasters is a brilliant organisation for practising in a safe environment.

On a side note, all of the above tips are important for entrepreneurs and sales people as well: After all, selling your business as a start-up is selling yourself, and the best way to do that is with a great story.

Related: (Video) How to Fight Your Public Speaking Fears

How do I convince someone to invest in my business? — Anonymous

The first thing an investor wants to know is how you’re going to make money. Theories are not really useful. Ideally, you need to show a proven revenue model that can believably be scaled to ensure that you generate more money than you spend.

The second thing most investors want is to know that you’re on a rising tide. Photo shops are not on a rising tide. No matter how well you run your photo shop, you are doomed to be taken out to sea where you will drown and/or be eaten by sharks along with everyone else.

The third thing that most investors want to know is that you’ve already made mistakes with other people’s money. Better you earn your school fees on someone else’s dime. Don’t shy away from the setbacks you’ve had. Admit to mistakes, elaborate on lessons learnt. You can be forgiven for almost any business failure, as long as your integrity is not questioned.

How do I find sponsors for an event? — Stephanie

Before you approach sponsors, first define your event’s audience. Make a list of potential sponsors who share that audience. For example, if you are hosting an entrepreneur event, think of companies that target entrepreneurs.

Once you have written down all the company names, start mining your personal network for anyone who works in one of those companies. You need to get to the CEO.

Sometimes a marketing director or executive is sufficient, but most times, especially if speed is essential, the CEO is the only person that won’t waste your time.

Be sure to use LinkedIn to explore relationships that people you know have in the companies. Maybe a friend of yours knows the CEO. The quality of an introduction via a mutually trusted friend is not far removed from a personal direct relationship.

Related: How do I start an events company?

Create a simple pitch deck. Be sure to include in the deck the benefits for the sponsor. No one really cares about the benefits for the audience, or for you, the organiser. Think about who is writing the cheque, that’s who you’re selling to.

Always give potential customers three options. People want options. Not too many to confuse, three is the magic number. The middle option should be the package you prefer the sponsor to choose. Most people choose the middle option.

Once that’s all done, start pitching. Do whatever it takes to get in front of the CEO. Then sell your dream. Don’t stress if you’re rejected. ‘No’ is better than ‘maybe.’ It saves you wasted time. Keep moving until someone bites, then stop moving and close the deal.


Listen to this

Alan’s audible book Be a Hero: Make Life an Adventure is now available on amazon.com and Audible.com

Read by Alan himself, Be a Hero is a collection of stories on how to make your life an adventure by changing your mindset and tackling adversity.

Go to amazon.com or audible.com to download your copy. Be a Hero is also available in Kindle and paperback through Amazon.com.


Read ‘Be A Hero’ today

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Simple Tips For The Small Business Owner To Manage Cash Resources Efficiently

How to manage the funding of the operational and trading needs of your business.

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The entrepreneur needs to know what is happening in his bank account at all times

At the time of launching the business and whilst preparing the annual budget, the funding required for the various parts of the business should have been determined.

This would have included the long- term funding of assets such as computers, plant and equipment, buildings etc. which, if funded, are normally paid off on a once a month basis.

At the same time, the payment arrangements for the operational or trading side of the business will have been put in place. This could be by way of an overdraft or be self-funded.

It is an essential part of the business owners’ duties, to ensure that the business is operating within these funding constraints.

Related: Great Email Marketing Tools For Small Business

It should be noted that in most cases where funding has been obtained the business owner would have signed personal surety so should the business fail he or she would be liable to make good any such debt.

How to manage the funding of the operational and trading needs of your business

Operational Cash Flows

These are the revenues received less the operating expenses incurred in order to achieve those revenues. The level of revenues and expenses should have been determined in the budget and that budget forms the guideline as to what kind of profits we should be achieving.

We thus need to constantly monitor:

1. Sales

Sales are the lifeblood of any business. Use the budget to determine what your daily sales are going to be and check daily. The entrepreneur must also be aware of the extent of cash sales to credit sales.

2. Gross margin

This is the difference between the selling price and the cost of the item sold and must be high enough to cover the overhead expenses the business incurs monthly.

3. Expenses

There are 2 elements here, one being the cost of sales and then the expenses such as salaries, rent, stationery etc.

Related: How The SA Government Can Help Small Businesses Thrive

Ensure positive cash flows

positive cash flows

  • Revenues must be greater than expenses. Once your revenues fall below a certain level your business will be using cash not generating cash
  • A large part of your total expense bases consists of what we call fixed costs and are not affected by the level of revenue. An example would be:
    • rent payable. You would have to pay your rent even if you made no sales.

Costs that vary depending on sales levels are known as

  • variable costs – A good example of a variable cost would be the cost of
    • commissions payable to salesman. I.e. the more the sales the more the commissions.

The second part of daily cash management is the

  • Management of working capital which consists of :
  1. a) stock
  2. b) debtors
  3. c) creditors.

Any inefficiencies here could have a severe impact on cash flows.

Stock

You always need to monitor your stock levels, as stock that lies idle on your warehouse floor is costing money. Software that monitors your stock levels and determines your fast-moving items, as well as determines your optimum levels and reorder quantities, is essential to proper management.

Related: Smart Money For Small Businesses

Debtors Balances

You must have a credit policy which must be enforced. Make sure that you provide in your budget for nonpaying debtors, as some of your customers will not pay you on time if at all.

Set credit limits and enforce them. Stop supply if payments are not being made in time. It is never wise to be reliant on just one or two major customers. Management of your debtors is critical to the success of your business.

Creditors

It is so important that you obtain the best possible terms from your suppliers. This is vital in businesses where the margins are tight and in industries where payment from customers is slow.

You must be careful to ensure that you do not pay your suppliers faster than you receive your cash from your debtors. Suppliers will try and entice you with settlement discounts, but this will not help if your customers (debtors) are taking too long to pay you.

Your business

The small business owner needs to pay attention to these areas to be successful. These are very basic guidelines on the management of cash and it is recommended that the small business owner research this topic further and customise to his own business.

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