The first thing I do when I coach people is to get them to tell me their story. I don’t want them pitch it or try to impress me, just tell me the story. You can see people relax, turn off their serious voice and get real. These stories always carry a heart and soul.
That was my experience with Felicia – having nearly lost her child through a choking accident she had a dream about creating something in the hands of everyone to stop any needless deaths. It was stunning story with huge stakes.
Felicia was preparing to pitch to Steve Case, founder of AOL and pretty much the man who made the internet legal. This pitch was going to be the game changer for her – if she could convince Steve and the VIP judges that her idea was worth investing in, whether she won the competition or not the exposure itself could turn her dream into a business. We’re talking high, high stakes. And in the high high heat of Chattanooga just before Felicia went on, everything began to fall apart. She had stumbled through the dress rehearsal, her voice was showing a complete lack of confidence in herself and the story didn’t sound genuine. Yet CPR Wrap was saving lives. I knew she had given up everything to pursue this dream!
How do you shock someone out of adrenaline attack and the loud inner voice that is screaming ‘You can’t do this?’ Sometimes you just have to get them to be so present to the moment. I remember getting her to breathe, to go through the pitch in her head, to visualise being on stage and to underline certain words. At this point you can only encourage what is there, not bring in anything new. Because we share the same faith, I prayed for her. I then sent her off on her own – a pitch walk I call it, to allow the story to become part of her body.
Fifty-five percent of what we present is body language and thirty-eight percent is tonality. It is never just the words. I saw her start to embody it. I saw a butterfly start to emerge from a chrysalis.
This is what Felicia says about the experience:
I had pitched in front of many crowds small and large, but pitching in front of Steve Case during Rise of the Rest was on a national platform and the exposure alone was monumental for my small start-up.
On 8 May 2018 at 9.31pm I received an email informing us of our pitch prep session with Stewart Bewley from Amplify to take place the following day. I remember the excitement of being one of the chosen to pitch and was excited to meet Stewart. This man was brought in to help us polish our pitch all the way from England so he had to be the best! I would later find out how much he would actually help me.
We had one full day to practice with Stewart, and a few hours before our actual pitch to work on tone and voice projection. It was my turn to get on the stage to practice but as I looked out into the pavilion something I still can't explain happened to me. As I started to say the first sentence of my pitch I heard the deafening pounding of my heart. My mouth was dry and my words were not leaving my lips. I started to panic! I couldn't just push through the fear like I always did so I bolted towards the door with Stewart right behind me.
He took my hand and we both sat on a bench outside of the pavilion and that's when my emotions exploded and I started to cry. At that point, I felt defeated and embarrassed and knew I could not go on stage in front of a packed venue. I don't know what Stewart said, but I know he gave me a shoulder to cry on. I went on stage that night to a packed, standing room Pavillion and pitched my heart out! I made eye contact, my voice was strong and I told my story in a way that only I could.
Stewart not only worked on polishing my pitch and presentation but he also worked on my building my inner confidence... He helped me believe in myself and for that, I am forever grateful.
The photo you see here on stage does no justice to all the hard work she put in minutes, even seconds before – but the confidence, the power, the joy, it was infectious!
CPR Wrap went on that day to raise $500,000. To date they have delivered 12,000 life-saving kits and Felicia has been named one of the Next 1000 by Forbes. It feels like this is just the beginning for her! Every time I see Felicia’s face on LinkedIn I don’t just see a woman brimming with confidence, I see a storytelling hero who battled hard and deep to bring this story and this incredible life saving device to the world!
Derrick A Parsons is a presence in the room – six feet tall (at least), larger than life – and when I met him at the Google for Startups: Black Founder Exchange in North Carolina I was deeply impressed.Read MOre
I first met Steve back in 2014 when he was preparing a 20 minute talk for an HR conference. My job was to listen to his story, pull out any jargon and help him present that presentation brilliantly.Read MOre