First Impressions

Captivating any audience is something everyone can do. This lecture will show you how!


So you know that you only get one chance to make a first impression. And that’s really important when it comes to making an impression on an investor or a customer. And the first impression that you actually make is usually answering the question who are you and what do you do. Now many entrepreneurs I’ve run into have no idea how to answer the second question. Every one of you can answer who are you. But answering what you do in a compelling way that’s memorable, that gives people a reason to ask you to tell them more is not too common.

So I’d like to share with you now a tool that’s the cornerstone to all the coaching I give to people. It’s what I call five in one. Five tools all in one that will help you stand out. And it’s really quite simple. You’ll never forget it as long as you live. It’s S‑A‑M‑E. If you just remember this word you will never sound the same as any speaker ever again. Except it gets a little bit more complicated. There are two Ss. And the way this works is as follows. The number one tool for captivating anyone’s attention or getting them interested in listening to what you have to say is the first “S.” And I know you’re probably going to say you’ve heard this before, but this is truly the way to captivate anyone’s attention. It’s with a story. Now, I know you might know this from the past but most people in business are not using stories effectively. If you need inspiration on where to come up with stories, my suggestion to you is to go visit and take a look at how other people are presenting their wildly inspirational and amazing technologies and lessons in life.

So when you sit down to actually tell your story it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out story. Craig Wortmann has done a set of videos on “What’s Your Story” and you should really reference that. And I suggest right now if you haven’t watched you should go watch it now and learn how to create your own story matrix. So that way as you build the stories for your company, you will be able to add them into these boxes. And whenever you have to do a presentation you just pick out the stories that you want to use, put them together and you now have a great story.

The best part of stories, they will get repeated. And the best part of stories getting repeated is when you present to an investor, when you leave, they might just repeat part of your story to their partners or to another group of people while you’re not there.

The next letter takes the next “S.” And that is when you use statements like how did you sleep last night, Nathan. I slept like a baby. And how was the hotel? Oh, the bed was like sleeping on a bed of feathers. And if you haven’t figured out yet that “S” stands for simile. When you use similes in business to help people really understand what you do, no matter how complex, using statements that include the word like or as, they will get it. We do this in life all the time but we forget in business to use similes. We’ll make it really easy for people to understand what the heck you’re talking about.

The next has a story. The “A” in “SAME” comes from a story where I asked the CEO what do you do. And he responded by saying, Nathan, I’m the CEO of a company that is building a wildly exciting product. We do for surfing what the chair lift does for snow skiers. And he paused. And he said, you know the problem with snow skiing is getting to the top of the mountain and the chair lift fixes that problem. Well the problem with surfing is getting out to the waves. And now instead of doing this (indicating) 90 percent of the time when you’re surfing, now you can get ahead of the wave or get out to the waves using a surf board that has an electric, built‑in motor. But using the “A” which is an analogy he was able to show us how what they do for surfing is analogous to something in skiing. And it helped us and everybody in the room completely understand what they are talking about.

The “M” has a story also. At the IBM Smart Camp in San Francisco two years ago there were 12 presenters that came up to the front of the room to present. Presenter number one when up and went blah, blah, blah, blah. The second presenter goes up and blah, blah, blah, blah. And now they were good presentations, but the fourth person stood up and said we’re really excited to be here because we want to share with you our machine that turns water into money. And you should have heard the room. Three hundred people in the room were laughing smiling, chuckling, wondering what is this machine that turns water into money. And then right up on the screen he shows us a video of a machine about so big that has turbines on the outside edges with flappers in the middle. You throw that into a rushing water way, tie it off to the side and plug it in. And now you’re generating free electricity. So does he literally turn water into money? Of course not. But he’s using a metaphor. That’s what “M” in “SAME” stands for. Using a metaphor to help people understand what you’re doing in business is so powerful it might be the only thing they remember. Out of all the presentations that day people still today are saying, did you see the guy who makes a machine that turns water into money. And you can come up with similes and analogies and metaphors for your complex businesses as well.

And finally the “E.” The “E” stands for examples. And this is where most people go to when they are trying to get people to understand what they are doing. While examples are good, it’s on the last letter of the word, it just so happens to be perfect. Because it’s the last place I really want you to go to when you have something you’re trying to get somebody to understand the value of. But if you used an example that used the simile, an analogy, or metaphor that would be much, much better.

So there is no business on the planet that is so complex that you can’t use a simile, an analogy or a metaphor to help anyone, no matter what language they speak, understand the value of what you do.

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Powerful Presentations || First Impressions || Impact Guide (PDF).

Wortmann, Craig. What’s Your Story? Sales Engine, Inc., 2006.

Fraleigh, Douglas M. & Joseph S. Tuman. Speak Up!: An Illustrated Guide to Public Speaking. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin, 2011.

Kauffman Founders School, Entrepreneurial Selling: What’s Your Story?, Craig Wortmann

Kauffman Founders School, Entrepreneurial Selling: The Story Matrix, Craig Wortmann

Miller, Anne. Metaphorically Selling: How to Use the Magic of Metaphors to Sell, Persuade, & Explain Anything to Anyone. New York City, NY: Chiron Associates, Inc., 2004.

Grothe, Mardy.  I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. 2008. (Note: for inspiration on metaphors)

Questions for You

Using S.A.M.E., create one simile, analogy, and metaphor for your product or service.

Test the results with 10 people to see how they respond, and rework it.

Keeping in mind that similes, analogies, and metaphors are culturally sensitive, create two more that can be used as backup.

Tools and exercises

Become a student of what you see and hear around you by looking for similes, analogies, and metaphors.

Create a S.A.M.E. list in your smartphone or in the cloud, and add to the list every time you see or hear an interesting one. Even write down crazy ones.

Create a Story Matrix(℠), using Craig Wortmann’s guidelines (PDF).

Continue to add to your Story Matrix(℠) as you recall or create new stories.