Q&A with Demo Coach’s Nathan Gold

Nathan Gold

Nathan Gold is the founder and chief coach at Demo Coach, where he prepares tech entrepreneurs for high-stakes presentations. As part of the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program, Nathan coaches our participating companies as they work on their customer presentations and prepare for their next investor pitch.

Nathan recently sat down with Scale-Up News to talk about presentations and pitching.


Q: How did your career as a presenter start?

A: My career as a presenter pretty much started when I was 16 years old. I was asked to do an adult education class for our high school, and the teacher didn’t show up. This was before cell phones; she had got a flat tire and just didn’t make it in time. So, I had to go up there and say, “My name is Nathan,” like any teacher would, and that really just sparked the love of teaching.

Q: Tell us about working with entrepreneurs on their pitches.

The first couple of years were very difficult because I was really a nobody, just another presentation skills coach out there. But then I met my first entrepreneur, and helped them raise money. That’s what sparked my love for the start-up world, because helping a start-up or a scale-up raise money, there’s just no bigger thrill than when they get those term sheets, and they sign, and then the money’s in the bank. Now, they can run their business – it’s the best feeling in the world. And if I don’t help them raise money, at least I helped them get a second meeting or a referral. I teach people how to get beyond that—the information and the content that they’re so worried about delivering – and make it more about the relationship. Because that’s what investors ultimately are looking for; it’s not about the content in your slides, it’s about the team and who you are.

Q: What are the core tenets of a good presentation?

A: One of the most important tenets, no matter where you’re presenting or pitching, is knowing your audience. Otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark as to what you say.  So, when you’re scaling up a company, or whether you’re just going out, telling somebody what your idea is in the very, very early stages, you need to know something about who you’re presenting to. If you don’t know anything about your audience, you just don’t know where to spend the time.

The second thing you need to look at is to scale down the amount of content that you’re trying to deliver in that very first meeting. If you can’t establish that relationship with the people that you’re meeting with in that first meeting, you’re not going to get a second meeting.

Q: What are the top three mistakes entrepreneurs and CEOs make when presenting?

A: The first one is a weak opening. They just get up there and they say, “Hi, my name is, and I’m here to talk to you about so-and-so. I have 19 stories, and an agenda slide.” And companies do that no matter what size they are. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies that stand there with just these dense slides, and people fall asleep before they even get into the content.

The second mistake that people make is they have a weak closing. So, people finish their presentations, and they say, “Okay, I’m done. Are there any questions?” It’s like, really? There’s no more you can do to leave the audience on a very high note versus, “That’s my last slide. That’s the last thing I’m talking about.”?

And I’d say the other biggest mistake is that they never pause. They just keep talking, they don’t pause to give the audience a chance to absorb the information they’ve just shared with them. During the Q&A, the biggest mistake that they make is never pausing before answering a question. Just that minor pause should tell the audience, “Hey, the guy respects the person that just asked that question. They’re thinking about the answer, and they’re not arrogant and obnoxious.

Q: What’s one thing all presentations need?

A: Whether it’s presenting to a board, a town hall meeting or an investor pitch, the most important thing that all these presentations need more of is stories. The best presentations on the planet, the best speakers on the planet, are the ones who use stories – relevant stories, ones that when you listen to them, you get engaged because that’s how our brains are wired. These people that stand up with bullet slides all the time, click, click, click, they don’t realize that there’s a story behind every one of those bullets. Instead, they figure, “I’ll just get the main point of the story out,” and it loses all the context.

That and the pause are the two things that people presenting anywhere in the world need to do more of, especially when you’re raising big rounds of money. Yes, they care about the numbers, but they want to hear about you, your team. How did you fail with one customer, and then turn it around into a success? Those kinds of stories illustrate the kind of person you are, the kind of team you’ve built, the culture of your company.

So, picking the right stories is key, and then rehearsing those stories before you actually go up on stage to try to use them is key. We all think we can tell great stories. Usually, we can if we’re not on stage, but once we get on stage, it’s like, uh oh. You need to really rehearse those stories. I call them ‘test tellings’.

Q: What’s a misconception many presenters have?

A: Don’t always be professing – facilitate. Presenters think they have to have the answers to every question. And the truth is, you don’t. You need to know how to facilitate. When you can create that kind of a dynamic in a room, then it’s not just you up there blah, blah, blah-ing away; now you’re actually having a dialogue instead of a monologue.

Q: How can presenters best engage their audience?

A: There’s two ways to engage people. One, you can jump around on stage, have beautiful slides up there and tell great stories. The other is to actually get in their heads and use the right language so that you’re not just throwing words out at a room, but that you’re using the proper language in order to generate the right pictures, the right feelings, the right sounds.

Most people only use two senses when they’re presenting: visual and audio, ears and eyes. But, you have three others that can become part of your presentation. If you try to integrate all five of them in some way, then you’ve got your audience in ways that most people don’t even think of.

You can hear more from Nathan in his video, Top 3 Mistakes People Make When Presenting

Jessica Smith

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Jessica Smith