Who doesn’t love a good story?  I mean, think about it … when you have attended conferences as a product management leader, which sessions stick out in your mind?  The ones that dragged on endlessly … or the ones that related the topic through a story?  The ones that focused solely on facts, figures and functionality … or the ones that brought the solution to life through illustration, intrigue or relate-able instances?

Very few product management leaders that I have met over the course of my career didn’t show at least some level of enthusiasm about the solutions they were leading.  But generally what separates the great product manager from the good ones is the ability to “tell the story”.

Imagine one day stepping into an elevator with Richard Branson and he asks what it is you do?  In the Forbes article 5 Presentation Tips for Pitching Richard Branson, we learn that three lucky entrepreneurs will get just that opportunity at the Extreme Tech Challenge in February 2015. If I were to put myself in their shoes, there would be a tremendous amount of planning and preparation that would go into that pitch.  But one thing I have learned throughout my career in speaking with executives (sometimes the hard way), is that if you can’t capture their attention within the first few minutes, all the planning and preparation could be for naught.

Which is why the essence of this article is so compelling!  Following are the highlights with a few of my thoughts and Branson quotes.  But I encourage you to link through to the Forbes article itself.

  • Keep the story tight, short, and simple. “Great leaders are simplifiers … They can communicate to their entire audience in terms that are universally understood.”  Yes, as a product owner you can likely probe into very technical elements of your product.  But be aware of your audience. Start with focused message, and dig into details when asked.
  • Start with a headline. Capture their attention quickly. I love the Twitter example that Branson mentions … “If you can’t articulate the big idea behind your product in a short sentence or two of 140 characters, keep working on the message.”
  • Wear your passion on your sleeve. If you aren’t excited by the message you are delivering, how can you expect to inspire others.  “Have fun! Fun is one of the most important—and underrated—ingredients in any successful venture”
  • Demonstrate good listening skills. A couple of wise sayings come to mind.  The first … be quick to listen and slow to speak.  The second … you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. “Listening while keeping your mouth shut and saying nothing is a whole lot smarter than not listening, speaking up and saying nothing,”