Wednesday, April 05, 2006

BBC Innovation Labs: What We Have Learned

We're now back at Headshift Central, having spent the weekend in our various forms of recovery, and now the dust has settled we're still excited about having won a commission - an agreement to fund four weeks of work to get our idea to a demonstrable prototype.

The announcement of the final results was pretty tense. After considering their verdict for about 45mins, the judges led everyone back into the hall, and Jem proceeded to go through the projects one-by-one, announcing the flaws and issues he had with it, and whether or not he was going to fund it.

When it came to our turn, we were fairly sure that we weren't going to get it - slicker presentations than ours had already been turned down, and the summing-up seemed to be a string of "You should have thought of X, we weren't sure about Y, you didn't do Z..." we were pretty much resigned to going home with some good contacts and great insights into alternative ways of working and the idea development process, but without a contract..... however, he then finished off with "but what the hell, I'll take a punt on it - we'll take it forward"

Out of the ten teams at the London Labs, four got funding - one more than either the Manchester or Yorkshire labs - but I think what we gained out of the week is far more valuable than the actual contract.

  • We like the idea of using the pitching process internally - the Good Cop / Bad Cop method was particularly effective at exposing holes in the idea that might otherwise get glossed over
  • We're more convinced than ever of the value of user persona analysis
  • Wednesday's session on "making it BBC-shaped" was a real eye-opener - it's an oft-forgotten but vitally important part of any pitch - why should THIS company in particular be doing this, as opposed to any other company?
  • Guy Kawasaki's The Art Of Pitching is like a safe anchor in a storm - when you're in a panic over an impending presentation and you really can't think how to get started, listen to this, and remember the golden rules. If nothing else, the soporific tone of his reading style should help you calm down...;) He may be a shameless self-promoter - but isn't that what you're trying to do with the pitch?

Best tip for presenting (again from Guy K): "So What?" ... "For Instance..."

Late on Thursday, we took Riks amorphous knitted puppet, previously named "Nagging Self Doubt", and gave him the job of "So What?" guy - the idea being that every time you make a point, or say something about your idea, he says "So What?" - why should I care? And nothing answers a "So What?" better than a "For Instance..."

To give an example -

"Our hearing aids have Digital Signal Processing"

So what?

"This lets us increase the clarity of sound."

For instance:

"For instance, if you are at a cocktail party, with many conversations going on all around you, you'll be able to hear what is being said to you."

Guy K reckons that "For Instance" are the most powerful two words in any pitch - and I would have to agree. Try this method yourself, be a real sarcastic sod, and try to find the holes in what you are saying. Get someone else to sit there and practise your pitch to them, asking "So What?" at every point you make. The difference it can make to your presentation is quite amazing.

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