Talk the Talk. Walk the Walk. That’s all good, but during the past couple of weeks at 30Hands, we discovered some important lessons about “Talking the Walk”. What does that mean? I’ll get to that, but first let me review the old concepts.
There are a couple of problems with Talking the Talk — speaking eloquently and using all the right words to get your point across “professionally”. First, Talking the Talk can seem like a slick sales pitch if people do not see you act according to what you say. More often than that, it can result in a lot of jargon that does not really mean anything. It sounds cool, but no one really knows what you’re talking about.
Walking the Walk — showing what you believe through your actions — is not without a major problem, either. Doing what you believe in is great, but if no one knows about it or understands it correctly, your actions can lose value.
This is where Talking the Walk comes in. Start with the Walk. Find your passion and start doing it. Spend a lot of time learning what it’s all about and how to engulf yourself in doing it the best way you can. Then, once you are on the path to mastering the Walk, turn to the Talk. It’s important to recognize that you should not wait until you master the Walk because, if you are truly on the right path, you will always be learning something new and striving to master a new aspect of what you thought you had almost mastered. In other words, if you are Walking the Walk, the carrot will keep moving forward and you will never reach the end. The nature of the beast is that the endpoint is never reached, like walking inside a circular treadmill. As you walk, the treadmill moves forward, but you never reach the end.
So, at some point in your journey, you need to start talking about what you are doing — talking about the walk, or Talking the Walk. How you do the talking can be just as important as how you do the walking. You need to talk more about what you believe and less about what buzz words sound the coolest.
So, here’s what we learned at 30Hands from two recent events.
The first event was a conference for CTO’s in K12 education, hosted at Bentley University. We started out at our booth in the large room where all the attendees could mingle for breakfast and lunch and between sessions. There we stood with the other vendors, straightening up our marketing materials and waiting to spew eloquent words and demo slick features. And we did this a few times before Keith Krueger stopped and told us we should attend the sessions. Keith is the CEO of CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking). Even though we were a vendor, the CoSN philosophy was that we should intermingle with the rest of the attendees and have discussions about BYOT, 1:1 technology, blended learning, flipping the classroom and all the other buzz topics.
While most of the other vendors stayed put, my partner and I did not need any prodding. We welcomed the opportunity to attend the sessions. My only regret was that I could only be in one place at a time. I tried my best to bop around to different sessions and participate in as many discussions as possible. Ultimately, what we care most about is how we can contribute to improving education in the US. We believe in a future vision where learning is easy, collaborative and everywhere — almost like breathing — and where teachers can easily use the open digital content they want and become more like class coaches. It was great being included in these discussions, many of which continued at our table in from of the computer screen.
By engaging in discussions about what we believe, we found greater connections with the CTO’s, teachers and administrators. As customers and prospective customers, they saw us more as peers with common goals. The result is a busy schedule of followup meetings. The connection with customers is not about features and functionality as much as it is about shared beliefs.
Upon reflection, I sat down to think about the next event — pitching our company to the MassChallenge panel of judges. MassChallenge is the startup competition that is redefining startup competitions. We had entered with 1,237 startup companies that have less than $1M in revenue and less than $500K in funding. Now, as one of 300 semi-finalists, we were scheduled to pitch in a few days. We had gone through many iterations of the pitch, from traditional business plan to haphazard mix of slides about every angle of our company.
I decided to meet with a couple of our advisors to review our slides and practice pitching. The first feedback I received was that the pitch started slowly but that it picked up once I began talking about what we believe in. It’s that passion we wanted to get across to the judges. This feedback was given again, and I realized that we needed to repackage the pitch. It was not unlike the experience at the CTO Clinic.
The end result was a pitch that began with what we believe before getting into the “Business Plan”. The presentation inspired some great Q&A and a very positive experience in the room. Libboo is a great example of Talking the Walk. Check out this video pitch from TechStars Demo Day.
In the pursuits that are most important to you in life, follow your passions to the fullest — first — and then talk from the heart about what makes you excited to Walk that Walk. This is what will inspire others and build strong connections in your life.