I am always surprised by how unprepared CEO’s and founders were to meet the time limits, typically five or six minutes, that they had been given at various conferences to get their point across: Office 2.0, Under The Radar, and Struct08 to name a few that come most readily to mind.
Five Minutes Is Not An Artificial Limit
Peter Cohan, in his Great Demo! methodology, stresses the need to get through a basic demo in six minutes. Get the audience’s attention with a glimpse of what’s possible that can help them satisfy a real business need.
On a trade show floor you have perhaps a minute to a minute and a half to capture prospect’s attention, after you’ve gotten them to stop and listen to that much.
When you meet someone at a networking event and are asked “what do you do” you have perhaps 30 to 45 seconds to trigger a conversation. This is typically referred to as the “elevator pitch.” Entrepreneurs should bear in mind that most buildings in Silicon Valley are two to four stories, it’s a very short ride.
Even if you come have arranged a meeting in someone’s office for 30 minutes, the first five or six minutes set the tone for the balance of the time. Jill Konrath’s third story in her “3 Hard Earned Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks” post recounts an actual situation:
“Sit down,” he said gruffly. “You’ve got 5 minutes. Talk.”
“If you’re busy, I’ll come back,” I said, trying to be gracious.
“Nope,” he stated. ” 5 minutes. Tell me why I should buy your product. Your 5 minutes is starting now.”
I mumbled. I stumbled. I tried to engage him in conversation. I tried to explain that I needed more time. He wasn’t one bit interested. After 5 minutes, he arose and said, “Your time is up. You can leave now.”
[…] I couldn’t concisely state why he should listen to me.
I wanted to build a relationship and warm up the call. That made me feel better. He was a busy man who chose to use his time judiciously. I didn’t respect his needs.
There is really only one way to achieve this. Practice.
“It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.”