Public speaking and facing dragons

Went to this networking do at the British Library last night. I’d put myself up for the ‘pitch in front of everyone’ session and was very glad I wasn’t picked, as it looked absolutely terrifying (huge room full of people, facing a panel of experts etc) and the guinea pigs I saw on the video broadcast (it was booked solid so late-comers had to go to another room) were clearly quaking in their boots. The comments made by the experts seemed helpful (“bankers are human”, said one) but I imagine the people trying to sell their ideas were so nervous that they couldn’t take much of it in. Of course, the ones who seemed the most relaxed came across the best, and it is perfectly true that if you are watching people speak, you can spend a lot of time drifting off and wondering what on earth inspired X to wear that unflattering jacket rather than listening to what X has to say, so it is clearly a good idea to practise speaking in public without umming and ahing (very difficult!) and not to wear distracting clothes. The trick is clearly to try and forget that you are in an artificial situation and pretend you are having a conversation. As one of the experts said, “Tell me a story”.

After the seminar, I was so charmed by the researcher for Dragons Den that I nearly signed up on the spot for a three-minute try out, but in the end sanity prevailed, as the business is not really ready yet. Coincidentally, on the way home I picked up the paper and found myself reading about several businesses that had been turned down by the Dragons and gone on to be a success, including several aimed at children like RelaxKids. Clearly, investors don’t have a crystal ball any more than the rest of us, and that must be a cheering thought to people who’ve failed with their first pitch.

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