By Karen Song (Developer, Women 2.0 Startup Weekend 2011) Last weekend, I attended a Hosting Bootcamp in Los Angeles that kicked me into gear. I had originally signed up for Lean Startup Machine weekend, but due to room constraints, the venue was not able to accomodate my team and I decided to jet down to LA instead.
The experience proved to be extremely valuable - and I learned a lot of information that is helping the Stylematic team to deliver wonderful presentations and establish our brand. Incidentally, Stylematic had a slew of presentations due this week. We were invited to speak on a panel at Fashion and Tech SF as well as do a demo rehearsal pitch at Startup Monthly.
The following is what I've learned:
- It is very important to brand yourself. You formulate your brand by looking at the things you are most passionate about, your personality, and how other people see you. My brand was "No regrets" because of the story I told about handing Katie Couric my first journalism resume on the street when I was seeking a job after my graduate program. Stylematic is in the process of figuring out its brand and we are asking users, friends, and ourselves about what we stand for and what our cultural ethos is.
- The audience is always more important than you are. As long as you are aware of the audience, your copy is better, you can inflect the copy with more of your personality, and ultimately host a better show. Confidence can't come from technical proficiency of the script you are given. On the contrary, confidence comes from knowing you are entertaining and satisfying your audience (even with your mistakes) Once you read as if you are talking to the audience, all nervousness fades away. Like an entertainer, the CEO must always consider the user experience. The User is more important than you - your strength and power comes from knowing that you are satisfying your users (not just building a technically proficient product).
- Your opinion equals your personality. Opinions are like ass holes (everyone has one - a place for your food to come out). There's no shame in feeling like you have an opinion because everyone has one, and your opinions are your personality. A host that is "too nice" and doesn't have an opinion, therefore does not have a personality, and wouldn't be fun to watch. Since Stylematic is a group of girls it's taken us a while to arrive at this conclusion. Some of us our afraid of expressing our opinions and tend to "agree" in order to be polite.However, I'm beginning to realize a startup is not a democracy - it is a place where decisions should be made in the best interest of the group. In the midst of intensive product and pitch discussions we've learned to articulate our own opinions more and distill the best perspectives in order to create a better and better product. Some startups may not realize that the creative process needs to be arduous and painful at times for true art to be borne. Stylematic and its personality was borne out of an interesting collection of creativity and tension. The bottom line is, you need push back from group members, arguments, and differences of opinion to infuse personality into your product and create a truly great product.
- Be funny. Talk candidly. Give stronger inflections to headlines and put in transitions in your voice. These small things make a big difference to your audience in telling that compelling story.
The Stylematic team definitely put some of 1, 2, and 4 into our presentations at Startup Monthly practice demo. Many people in the audience have come up to us and said we delivered an engaging presentation that told a great, memorable story.
The lessons learned from hosting bootcamp don't just apply at a personal level, but apply at a broader level to the whole Stylematic Team and speaks to the importance of always putting the customer, "our audience", first, not only when it comes to pitching, but when we are developing the actual product.
Looks like Stylematic is progressing and I am so proud of the work we've done.
This post was originally posted at Confessions of a Female Entrepreneur.
About the guest blogger: Karen Song is a co-founder of Stylematic and Newsfly, a citizen reporting application. A female entrepreneur living in Palo Alto, Karen loves travel in the physical and metaphorical sense: exploring new ideas and terrain as well as meeting different types of people. She has worked at various startups in the Bay Area, along with doing some reporting and anchoring for an NPR affiliate in Mid-Missouri. Karen graduated from Stanford with a degree in Human Biology.