In a world where MEME and emojis are quickly becoming prime modes of exchanging ideas, the importance of conversational communication is getting lost. COVID has rapidly accelerated the number of online meetings we are expected to join each day, and expanding our social skills is even more important as we figure out how best to navigate all of these digital interactions. We have more tools – Slack, Zoom, Clubhouse, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Meet, Signal, Telegram. But are we communicating right? In the entrepreneurial world, communication plays a key role in success or failure. Getting the attention of the right VCs can make or break a venture. B-Schools and Incubators spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on “The Pitch” and for the right reasons. It is a brief 2-minute window of opportunity, that can define the trajectory of a venture. There are several occasions where founders have an opportunity to make an impression. As they say, fund raising is journey not a destination. Here are some best practices that Founders can incorporate in their interactions with Mentors, Advisors, VCs or potential investors to make a good impression. After all, they are investing their invaluable time (and hopefully money) in making your venture a success.
Start on Time
There is an old adage that says “to be early is on-time, to be on-time is late, to be late is never.” Start your meetings by arriving and starting them on-time whenever possible. Being on-time (or even a little early) shows you are eager to chat and respectful of the other party’s time. The more important the person, the more important it is to be on time. Every now and then you run into some problems, it happens. If you do, always try to give the others in the call a heads-up that you will be running behind and tell them when you expect to join; but don’t make it a habit.
Have an Agenda
For a productive meeting, have an agenda; better yet, share it ahead of time. The more proactive you are the more you will get out of the meeting. Setting the agenda will give you control of the narrative and compel the other person on the line to come prepared. You can also invite them to add to/amend the agenda so they can feel initiated into the process as well. WIN-WIN!
Always Take Notes
I am not saying catch every word but capture the key discussion points and action items. Better yet share them soon after the meeting. (How soon? A mentor once told me, the unsaid rule is 24 hours. After that all is forgotten) This will become a written record of what you discussed and remind everyone on the call of what they have to do. This is a chance to reflect and catch any mistakes or misgivings about the discussion. This is particularly important when recalling various asks or action items so you and the other people who joined can be clear about who is expected to do what from a call.
Don’t Do all the Talking
Unless you are giving a seminar, don’t do all the talking. Be an active listener and let others contribute. Go around the table, especially the introverts, by pulling them into the conversation. The more opinions and information you get from ALL the participants, the more productive your meeting is. You did all the work in setting up the meeting and spent the time. You don’t want to do it all over again because someone was not paying attention or was too timid to disagree on the call.
Whether its 5 in the morning or you didn’t clean your space, have your camera on, at least until you can verify the other person isn’t joining via camera. It’s best if people can see each other but if you notice the other person is dialing in or has their camera off you can switch yours after getting started. After all we still have our verbal and nonverbal cues. (Frowns, Head nods, etc. Beat that emojis.)
Sometimes Silence is Golden!
Remember to hit the mute button. You never know when a fire ambulance will go by or your phone will go off. It can be a terrible distraction. I once had a Tornado alarm TEST go off in the middle of an interview. (Ugh!) For a full 60 seconds. Talk about bad timing or bad luck!
Keep the Pace
Everyone has their own pace. But don’t be too far off the mean. If it is a meeting full of energy, make sure you got your early morning coffee and you brought your A-game. It will be hard to keep everyone engaged if you are way too fast or way too slow.
Keep it Short (and Sweet!)
Nobody likes rambling. Make your point and move on. Let someone ask for clarification or repetition before you repeat. Have a clear and concise point and move on. Don’t just talk for the sake of participating and don’t just stay silent. Active participation is the rule. Contribute with a meaningful point.
End on Time
End on time or even a little early if possible. The other person on the call will always appreciate having a breather before their next call. Great chance to catch a breath, a trip to the restroom or just a chance to look outside and enjoy the view. Always be respectful and appreciative of others’ time and don’t forget to thank them as they sign-off.
Ashish is an Intern at Dashfire. He is currently pursuing a MBA at Chicago Booth, concentrations include technology entrepreneurship and venture capital. In his spare time, he likes to spend time with his daughter, look after his plants and watch F1 races. Occasionally, he will cook food for friends and family.