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When she speaks, there is a magnetic aura that keeps us all hanging onto every word of hers . She has got the charisma of a leader, the gift of gab of a Public Speaker and the magnanimity of an Educator. She is everything an entrepreneur should inculcate in themselves. Meet the Boss Lady who made our Friday, edu-taining ! Here’s Laura Toma, CEO and Founder of GreyMatter and Improbable Agency, who is making the improbable far more probable than ever before. Perplexed?

Wonder what makes her a niche apart? She is a strong advocate of integrating Artificial Intelligence in Education, the one who believes that if robots don’t take over the monotonous drudgery of routine jobs, humans won’t capitalise on the greatest asset- their creativity and ingenuity- which she believes needs a dynamic environment, that robots can’t adjust to. No wonder, her edtech Start-up is fostering a joy for learning and the spirit of  leadership  in school children, who are all geared up to  take the role as future entrepreneurs. And at Techstars Global Startup Weekend 2018, her class on ‘The 7Cs of Persuasive Speaking’, was a must-attend, especially with the tactics for elevator pitches. Allow me, to spill the beans!

If you have not watched the movie, ‘The Hidden Figure’, there is a lot that Women in Tech can learn, and the most crucial  is ‘Dare to be first’. Yes, that’s how our class with Laura began, straight from the movie scene where the little girl is not asking, requesting but demanding her right . Since, we also watched an exhaustive collection of start-up pitches where Laura gave individual feedback, asking us to point the mistakes, correcting our misconceptions and then revealing what investors had to say, we got to see things from different perspectives.

Here are a few take-aways from Laura’s workshop,  just in case , if you missed out!

  • The Art of Storytelling: The human mind is wired to share memories, recall moments and tell tales. And with our dwindling attention spans in today’s age , nothing engages the audience more than a personal anecdote, the trending news, a strong quote,a viral video or a joke!  The ‘hook’ should inspire, move or simply, entertain, within the first 30 seconds of the entire speech. Often , the best presentation is not always the most-informative, but the one where the speaker has a chatty-style conversation with the audience, so it’s necessary to drop unnecessary jargon!
  • Why Numbers Matter? Okay, you have convinced everyone that your idea is a breakthrough, but if you don’t have any clue about how much is the production cost, the set-up expenses, the advertising and marketing budget, why should investors care? And what if it’s not novel, but it generates a self-sustaining business model, well, that’s at least better. By the way, numbers don’t just matter in the business model, but also when you are highlighting the problem in the first place, because stats are like a ‘call to action’!
  • Speak with Passion. Speak with Purpose: If you don’t believe in the value of your product, no one else will! The elevator pitch is very short, so both  your verbal and  non-verbal gestures should showcase your determination and enthusiasm. Let your personality shine through. Be confident, self-assured , clear and coherent!
  • if ( first impression AND last impression)== true, then only will you make a mark! Most of the people spend so much energy in making a strong attention-grabber at the start, that they don’t care much about the  end. It’s very important to summarise your leading points using different set of words from before, and  to end on a strong statement that the audience is sure to remember , even when the next speaker takes them by a storm.
  • Ask the Audience: Often, the best way to get the attention of listeners who are dozing off , is to ask questions, that force them to  think . Questions shouldn’t ever have obvious answers, the audience should find it difficult in deciding an answer. Rhetoric, opinionated, and factual questions are some examples. It’s also necessary to leave some time after speeches, for the audience to ask you questions.
  • Study Your Audience: Nothing makes someone more nervous, than the thought of unpreparedness. Practice and Rehearse multiple times.  But at the same time, it’s necessary to be flexible to change, so study the audience simultaneously, gauge their reaction and adjust your message depending upon your  interactions. Your practice and final speeches just can’t be the same!
  • Outline the Script : Yes, having a clear flow of ideas, inclusion of necessary transitions between points and practice is a must. Write down the topic, general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, and main points. Show the audience the order of your topics so they have a clear understanding of the objectives you will touch upon.
  • What’s the bone of contention? Conflicts,  can be a great way to juxtapose differences and similarities, between what you are pitching and what’s already existing. So, before beginning your start-up pitch, it’s best to highlight an issue through narration, making the audience believe that the problem exists, they have been through it and  how your idea solves it.

Hmm… So we said this post was about the ‘7Cs of Persuasive Speaking’! Can you quickly identify them from the description below?

Be clear with what you want to convey, so your ideas should have a logical pattern. The next thought should link to the preceding one. It often happens that some people are tempted to use advanced vocabulary and  can sound too verbose, which disengages the listener, so being concise is crucial. Further, if your speech is not concrete, then all the hours of  research goes a  waste. Since,people love pointing out flaws, so ensure to be correct, or else it can be really embarrassing. Honestly, there is nothing worse than someone telling you mid-way, your time’s up, so make sure to complete on time!  As a final message, smile throughout and make eye contact, because courtesy goes a really long way. 


And guess, how we ended the segment? Imagine if a celebrity or renowned personality that you have always wanted to meet suddenly appeared in front of you, and you had a minute to say whatever you had to, what all can you JAM? Mention in the comments below.

We absolutely admire Laura for teaching us these life lessons. There was so much to take back home!

The best Friday ever!

Aaah,..the long weekend is nearing an end, so is my  motivation 😛

Happy National Day, SW Rockstars!

Hakuna Matata,

Media Team


Sidra Raihan