Speech of the Month, April 2021 - Sam Jones

Sam Jones gave a persuasion master class in the Dragons' Den. Like Jones, use happy-high status, logic and good pace next time you have to sell to a tough crowd

Speech of the Month, April 2021 - Sam Jones

Dragons’ Den has got to be the 21st century’s answer to the Roman Coliseum. Like a conquering gladiator, we delight when an entrepreneur is given a thumbs up and wins investment but we also feel their pain when they walk back to the lift having got a thumbs down, usually after a brutal, exposing grilling.

The last entrepreneur of any episode wins investment. That’s the deal. Send us off on a high. And this trend wasn’t bucked on 22 April when Sam Jones of Gener8 blew away all the dragons – grumpy woman Meaden included! – with his dazzling pitch. If you didn’t catch it, have a look now...   

Here’s why Jones’s pitch was described by Touker Suleyman as one of the best he’s ever seen:

He projected happy-high status

Unlike so many other contestants, when Jones enters the den he doesn’t look like he’s about to have his gonads chopped off. Rather, he looks happy to be there. He approaches the dragons as an equal. 

I mention this because a couple of episodes earlier an entrepreneur swaggered into the den, he shuffled around and didn’t look at the dragons. At first glance he looked rude. And because of his demeanour, he went home empty handed. But at a second glance, he was clearly nervous and made the mistake of trying to disguise his nerves by acting cocky. Never do this. Instead, like Jones, remember that you are no better nor no worse than the audience you’re addressing - and smile. 

He wasn’t greedy

The sum that Jones asks for is reasonable. This doesn’t happen as much as it should on Dragons’ Den. So many ask for £2M for a 5% share in a business that, to date, has only broke even and you think, ‘Say what?!’ And so do the dragons, and send them packing. 

Of course, this is 'negotiation skills' territory, which isn’t strictly public speaking, which is my bag. That said, one of Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals is logos, logic, and if a speaker’s argument isn’t logical then we won’t give them the time of day. Imagine if someone tried to sell you a 10-year-old Renault Clio for £20K. It would be absurd. And because of that you wouldn’t want to deal with the person because you couldn’t take them seriously. 

His pace was excellent

I don’t doubt that adrenalin was surging through Jones’s body as he opened his pitch but what he didn’t do – which so many do when adrenalin announces itself – is speak too quickly. He keeps his pace slow and leaves a pause between each sentence. This is really important for good delivery. It gives listeners the chance to digest what you’ve just said and it means that when you begin your next sentence, there’s a fresh energy in the voice. And it also makes you appear calm and confident, even if you’re all at sea. 

So next time you have to sell products or ideas, do approach your audience as an equal, make sure your arguments are logical and, as you present them, take your time. Most people can reduce their speed by a third and not sound weird. Practice.  

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“Emma is a first-rate trainer who practices what she preaches. She gave a wonderful talk to the law school. Attendees were struck by her style, authenticity and the accessibility of her content.”

Simon Price, Principal Lecturer in Law, Uclan

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