If students can get their audience to feel something, their chance of “success” rises dramatically.
We’ve all been there. Two students stand on one side of the screen, two students stand on the other. One student talks to the screen while the others fidget nervously until it’s their turn to stumble through what they couldn’t quite memorize.
Student presentations are painful. For them. For us. For judges.
Use the videos below to teach your students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.
Option 1: Make The Audience Feel Something About Themselves
Students often jump right into describing or selling the product/service.
This is the classic pitch mistake.
Students need to know their audience – their goals, their values, their struggles. The more they know about their audience, the easier it will be for them to bring the audience’s point of view to theirs. In the video below, Dallas Mavericks owner, and Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban shares how he sold Mavericks tickets when they were the worst team in the NBA.
Mark is not selling the basketball game. He is selling the feeling parents have when they create family memories at the basketball game.
Mark understand that his customers (parents) want to create memories with their children. And more importantly, the kind of memories the parents have with their parents. He convinces customers that a Mavericks game experience creates those lasting memories. Mark makes an emotional appeal to his audience’s nostalgia so they will feel something about themselves and buy his product.
Option 2: Make The Audience Feel Something About You
If your students want people involved, they can open up about themselves and weave their personal story into their presentation. If they are vulnerable, their audience begins to feel something.
This approach is about students finding something that is true about them that may also be true about their audience.
In the Shark Tank pitch below, a founder (Phil Lapuz) gets sharks tearing up tearing up – including Kevin O’Leary, who is the definition of a robotic investor!
Phil is vulnerable and authentic. He uses his own story to remind the sharks about the risks of starting a new company, something that each shark undoubtedly remembers and feels very intensely.
Help your students appeal to their audience’s emotions by:
Being vulnerable, and authentic
Identifying their audience’s values – what matters to them
Specifically link their product/service to those values
The audience is immediately compelled to act because they remember, they feel, and they believe. They empathize with the person pitching and with the product/service. Phil makes the sharks feel something about him so they will invest in his startup.
Option 3: Make The Audience Feel With You
Amy Cuddy’s video below is about imposter’s syndrome, which she felt and which many in the audience undoubtedly felt at one time or another. They feel Amy’s fear and angst. Because they remember, and feel, their fear and angst.
People clap during Amy’s talk, because they are celebrating her and what she is offering another young woman experiencing imposter syndrome. But they are also clapping because they recognize something in themselves.
Amy doesn’t just make her audience feel something about themselves.
She doesn’t just make her audience feel something about her.
She makes her audience feel with her. And in that moment, they will go wherever she wants to take them!
If students default to their normal Powerpoint presentation technique, the audience defaults to processing language. All their effort is spent decoding words into meaning, instead of feeling. Share these videos with your students to help them understand that great presentations make audiences feel something.
In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!
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Have your students ever shut down when they were out of their comfort zone?
My students absolutely have, many times. Two students come to mind:
I had a student who, for years, talked about her dream job: becoming a forensic accountant. One summer, a fantastic company posted a forensic accounting internship near her hometown, but she wasn’t going to apply for it. When I asked why, she said she didn’t think she could compete for it. I asked her for a Zoom call, played a video like the one below, and spent the next hour helping her believe she was worthy of the internship. She didn’t get the internship that summer. But she did get it the next summer!
Another student wanted to start a landscaping business. He didn’t believe he could make enough money to cover the cost to buy all the equipment. I helped him discover ways to borrow and rent equipment while he tested out his sales and service strategies and before he tried booking his first client, I sent him a video like the one below. Within a year, he had 30 clients and 2 employees.
If your students need some encouragement to believe in themselves,consider showing them some of these videos:
Entrepreneurship ask students to learn from their failures.
Of course, most of our students have been taught to fear failure and as a result, are fearful of even talking to customers, let alone trying to sell them something.
To combat that, you can use the video below to help your students learn that life isn’t about how well they avoid failure, it’s about how well they learn from it:
An experiential entrepreneurship classroom can be a stressful place for our students.
It’s full of uncertainty, challenge, and vulnerability. Many believe they can’t accomplish the things we ask of them. Many believe they can’t achieve their dreams.
Levity also goes a long way toward helping students feel more comfortable and confident. For a fun and lighthearted way to inspire your students, invite the “President” in for a pep talk:
Whenever your students are about to try something new, consider leveraging videos like these to give them a boost in confidence.
So how did Dennis and his colleagues – Michael Harris, Director of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, David Mayo, and Corey Pulido – grow their entrepreneurship program so quickly? And more generally…
How do Top 50 entrepreneurship schools get on, and stay on, that list?
To find out, we interviewed the leaders of several Top 50 programs so we could share their techniques with you.
Who We Interviewed
Below you’ll find a summary of what we learned during our interviews, as well as…
5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program.
Step #1: Define Your Niche
Most of the successful entrepreneurship programs we interviewed did two things early on to spark their growth:
They intentionally started small and
They specialized in an area of entrepreneurship that leveraged their local community and institutional culture
For instance, Iowa State University leaned into agricultural entrepreneurship, and East Carolina University specialized in the needs of eastern North Carolina. Studying your local ecosystem by identifying the largest industries, companies, and communities will help you define your niche. Additionally, you can look at your local Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, or similar entity, to see how they are marketing your community.
Defining your entrepreneurial niche is important because it will help your program stand out in a sea of other academic programs, not to mention accelerators, incubators and community-based organizations. Narrowing in on a small group of students you can serve extremely well as your program is still growing will increase the success rate of your program, which you can highlight as case studies to create a positive feedback loop that grows your program.
So if your local community has a large Latinx population, consider specializing in Latinx entrepreneurship. Or if your entrepreneurship program has a number of instructors who are veterans, consider developing programs that specialize in veterans entrepreneurship.
Over time, you’ll be able to grow and broaden the scope of your program, but when you’re starting out, do like the most successful programs have done and ensure that you can provide a fantastic opportunity for a small set of entrepreneurs in your community. Then, highlight their successes to help fuel your program’s growth.
Note: This is our first article in a series dedicated to growing entrepreneurship programs. We’d love your input on which article we should write next.
If you want more details on this specific step (i.e. how to define your entrepreneurial program’s niche and create programs specific to it) please vote here and we’ll expand the overview above into a full article and checklist.
Step #2: Name Your Champions
The Top 50 programs we talked to overwhelming stressed the importance of identifying people on your growth team to fulfill these three roles:
Administrative Champion: A Dean, Vice-President, Provost, President, etc. who has been at your school for some time and has excellent relationships with faculty, staff, and the ability to get buy-in for creating new programs.
Faculty Champion: Preferably a tenured faculty member who can drive the implementation of your new academic and extracurricular programming.
Data Collector: Someone to aggregate program metrics, testimonials, and success stories.
Note: the same person can fulfill multiple roles, you just need to make sure you’ve got someone owning all three levels of responsibility.
Champions are people who can help you launch your efforts by providing critical feedback, opening doors, and giving their resources. Many of the programs we interviewed mentioned specifically having two campus champions – one a tenured faculty member, and the other an administrator (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President). With respected champions who can reach across campus, program growth has a clear path for growth. They also recommend giving the faculty champions a meaningful title and a commitment of time and support to help them help your entrepreneurship program.
Another potential benefit to identifying champions is that they sometimes rise into leadership positions at the university (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President) and can provide ongoing support and visibility for your program from the top down.
Jamey Darnell from Penn State University mentioned that working towards getting ranked as a top entrepreneurship school is a great way to get administration excited, and achieving rankings is a great way to keep them excited.
In addition to stressing how important campus champions were to building their program, the leaders we interviewed all spoke about the importance of a data collector: someone to capture their efforts and successes and report them as part of the Princeton Review rankings process. As with your champions, consider providing this person (ideally a faculty member) with a title and a small monetary stipend to emphasize the importance of the role and ensure they have time to complete it. In addition, make sure other people on campus know who this person is – put out a press release, introduce the data collector at campus meetings and events, etc. This person will interface with faculty, students, and administrators, so letting your campus know who they are and what they’re doing enables them to collect more stories and data.
If you’d like us to write a more detailed article about how to identify and empower your entrepreneurial champions, please click here.
Step #3: Start a Fellows Program
Every program we talked to emphasized the importance of early cross-campus collaboration. Creating these connections will help you accomplish two things:
Get buy-in from a wide range of tenured faculty which helps establish academic legitimacy.
Grow your program by embedding entrepreneurship across the curriculum which introduces it to more students.
To do this, you want to build a cohort of entrepreneurial ambassadors across campus. As Tom Swartwood at Iowa State University recommended, you want to:
“Deputize people around campus.”
Jamey at Penn State University found that having a cross-disciplinary program leads directly to growth because they get to meet students wherever they are: at a law school, at an incubator, etc. For the same reason, Susan Fiorito at Florida State University recommends developing a diversity of courses and programs to reach as far across campus as possible.
The most effective mechanism we heard for building cross-campus collaboration was through an “entrepreneurship Fellows” program. In a Fellows program, you pay non-entrepreneurship faculty a small stipend to bring entrepreneurship into their curriculum. For example, you might pay 4 or 5 faculty in different disciplines a few thousand dollars to each develop a course that focuses on entrepreneurship in their respective discipline. Judi Eyles at Iowa State attributed much of the entrepreneurship program’s success to spending a little money early on to “turn faculty into ambassadors.”
You guide the Fellows through learning about entrepreneurship in the context of your university (and your niche), and collaboratively develop ideas for how to introduce it into their curriculum. You will also want to include faculty involved with your curriculum approval process in your Fellows program, which will help smooth the course approval process when you get to that stage.
Each year, add more Fellows to your program (both senior faculty and new faculty), in new disciplines, while former Fellows serve as mentors. You can thereby build a rich and diverse community of entrepreneurship champions across campus.
The big payoff from an investment in a Fellows program comes in two forms:
Cultivating entrepreneurship educators across many disciplines creates a rich fabric of entrepreneurial courses, which increases interest in entrepreneurial minors, and majors.
Student entrepreneurs get a diverse range of experiences and perspectives, which increase the quality of their experiences and their outcomes as future entrepreneurs.
If you’d like us to write a detailed guide on how to create a fellows program, please click here.
Step #4: Map Your Ecosystem
Ecosystem maps will help you understand the relationships between the people and assets that contribute to creating amazing student experiences. Building an ecosystem map specifically provides two benefits:
You identify the people who support entrepreneurship (so you can empower them) and those who do not support it yet (so you can interview them to understand their perspective and work to bring them onboard)
During your research, you plant the seeds from which your entrepreneurship program will grow. As you map your ecosystem, you talk to faculty, staff, students, and alumni about your vision and goals for your program. When it is time to make an ask, these stakeholders understand what you’re doing and why.
The leaders we interviewed mentioned the following as critical components to include in your ecosystem map:
The faculty and staff who collectively create your student experience.
The practices they perform – the services or value they deliver to students.
The information they require, use, or share to contribute to their parts of the university.
The people, systems, faculty, and staff they interact with to be successful in their roles.
The channels through which they communicate – e.g., email, campus newsletter, campus forums.
For a demo on how to start outlining the key players in your ecosystem, check out this great video by Meg Weber from Western Washington University:
Want more details on how to build and leverage an ecosystem map? Click here and we’ll expand this into a full guide.
Step #5: Connect Your FACS
After you’ve identified your niche, champions, Fellows, and ecosystem members, you’re ready to take the final step that separates the Top 50 entrepreneurship programs from the rest…
Connect your constituencies to accelerate growth.
Successful entrepreneurship programs are intentional about connecting their “FACS”:
Each of these groups complements the others, and together, creates the fuel for program growth. For example, you want to make sure you’re actively promoting programs connecting:
Faculty to Alumni – Great for finding guest speakers, internships for students, publicizing your programs’ success stories, and soliciting donations.
Faculty to Community – Great for getting pitch competition judges, finding inspiration for class projects, highlighting student success stories, and soliciting donations.
Students to Alumni – Great for mentorships, jobs, and potential investments.
Students to Community – Great for mentorships, jobs, and inspiring class projects.
As Judi Eyles at Iowa State University mentioned, “you need to make it easy for the outside world to connect with your students and faculty by giving them a portal to connect.” Intentionally building relationships with students will help you keep in touch with them as they transition to alums, and enable you to extend relationships with them and their growing network.
Creating relationships with alumni and community members will provide the “reality” your students yearn for as they wonder how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom. Alumni will also create opportunities for students – through job shadowing, internships, seed funding, adjunct instructors, and the list goes on.
Does your entrepreneurship program offer your alumni and community members multiple opportunities to contribute their time, expertise, and/or money to help your program grow?
If not, you may be able to accelerate your program’s growth by connecting your “FACS.”
If you’d like us to write a detailed guide with specific ideas on how to connect your FACS, please click here.
Bonus Step #6: Focus on Skills
The top 50 entrepreneurship programs we interviewed had one more resounding practice in common:
They prioritized entrepreneurial skill development over “success stories.”
The programs we spoke with acknowledged that entrepreneurial success stories are fantastic to share to grow your community, but they can be few and far between. So instead of focusing exclusively on those, the programs emphasized the value for students of learning entrepreneurial skills, regardless of their perceived career path.
Universally applicable skills like design thinking, financial modeling, and business model validation turn today’s students into returning alumni who are looking to hire similarly skilled and innovative graduates.
Introduce the difference between business plans and business experiments.
This is a great slide when you’re introducing:
The Business Model Canvas. You can tell students, “Like boxing, entrepreneurship isn’t about how well you plan; it’s about how well you respond when your plan doesn’t work. That’s why in this class you’ll learn how to use the Business Model Canvas to identify the weaknesses of your business model early so you can learn how to test and strengthen it from day one.”
Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). You can tell students, “Instead of planning an expensive and elaborate first product launch (that will most likely fail), Minimum Viable Products let you launch small, inexpensive experiments to quickly test elements of your business model. Their low cost and fast development time mean in the very likely scenario that your original assumptions are wrong, you’ll have plenty of time and money to build multiple MVPs and incorporate what you learn from the market in real-time.”
Alex Osterwalder uses to demonstrate the importance of defining customer segments and value propositions.
This slide is inspired by our workshop with Alex Osterwalder, one of the creators of the Business Model Canvas, and we think it’s a great slide to show when you’re:
Introducing the Business Model Canvas. You can tell students, “This is why we define our customer segments and value propositions.”
Contrasting building products with solving problems. You can tell students, “He may have the most revolutionary invention in the world, but if he can’t explain it in a way that resolves a need for customers, no one cares.”
Demonstrating how (not) to pitch. It’s a lighthearted way to start a lesson on pitching.