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Practice the art of STFU

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Tip for start ups looking for investment. 

This is one thing that seems simple, but it’s really quite a skill set and one many people don’t have down pat.  It will help you with all manner of negotiations – securing funding, commercial partnerships, employing people, pitching (to anyone!).

I was taught this very early on and it took me probably another ten more years to fully appreciate the importance of it.  It’s really easy – practice being quiet in meetings. Don’t be the one with the most to say.  I hear you, you can’t quite imagine me being quiet.  Don’t get me wrong – I have loads to say.  But it’s all about the timing and delivery of those words.

When I first heard the concept of STFU, having never been “formally” trained I was rather horrified.  How could you pitch if you didn’t talk?  The trick, as I learned, was to not simply talk, but to artfully and strategically talk.  Or as Kenny Roger’s puts it, know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.

The single best way to enter into a meeting is to know what the other person is looking for as an outcome.  Ideally you’d know that before you get there, but often that’s just not possible, so finding out in the first few minutes is vital.  Getting them talking and asking them questions for as long as need be, before you start in on your “why we’re here” spiel.  It’s very easy to sit down in a meeting and run off what’s in your head and what’s important to you.  The smart person sits back and gets the other guy show his cards first.  You’ll learn so much in those moments about why they’re there, what they need, who they’re talking to, what they’ve learnt so far, etc etc.  It’s no different if you’re on a date or at a social function, always get the other person talking first – they’ll find you so interesting because of.

But the real trick to successful meetings is knowing when to really STFU.  It can be really awkward to and if you pull it off, it will put you in good stead for life. When you’re at a negotiation point or a crucial moment when you need them to impart information or concede, you simply be quiet.  Even if it’s for a VERY LONG TIME.  This bit can be a bit weird and awkward.  You’ll be busting to go first.  Bite that tongue.  Seriously, actually bite it if you have to.  Smile.  Not in a “stuff you, you go first” kind of way, but in a “I’m listening” sort of way.  It can’t be hostile.  No one likes working with hostility.  But people are trained to want to fill voids with words.  Use that to your advantage.