Selling ideas – why should the audience care?

Olle Bergman, writer and communications consultant, shared his views regarding how to write solid and convincing texts. It does not matter if you are selling investment opportunities to venture capitalists or writing an academic report, you have to engage the reader. You have to get across why they should care about the specific topic or message. It’s always about understanding the audience and their drivers. The structure and balance between  pathos, logos and ethos may however differ.

More about the workshop and useful links can be found on Olle’s site.

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6 responses to “Selling ideas – why should the audience care?

  1. Topic Sentence
    The topic sentence is a tool for making a report coherent, by providing an introduction into what a paragraph will be about in the first sentence of the paragraph. The topic sentence is not supposed to explain everything, but all text in the paragraph following it should tie to it in one way or another.

    Another guideline explained in the same article is how to use paragraph. The recommendation is to not break text into paragraphs based on the length of a paragraph, or because of “need” to pause the reader, but instead only add paragraphs that add something new to the text.

    Academic Writing
    The second article is focused more on general guidelines for writing academic texts. The author argues that scientific writing should strive for clarity, and even proposes that “most scientific writing is characterized by its clarity”, which can definitely be debated.

    As far as recommendations go, the article details four different areas on which to focus in order to make a text accessible for someone expecting a scientific style of writing. These include organisation, objectivity, precision, and concentration.

    All of the above stated guidelines on how to structure a scientific report can be used when writing our assignments for this course. I would argue that many of the previous assignments were described as targeting investors (which in my opinion would allow for the use of a more natural tone in writing), but from here on out we will try to write them as scientific papers. Hopefully there are some report-savvy VCs out there getting tired of marketing language and detailing descriptions.

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    • For clarity. No, you are not supposed to hand in academic papers. The question is what you can learn from academic writing, or writing guidelines in general (see also the slides shown by Olle), that can be useful and utilized to improve the writing in this course and especially your final report. As you quote “most scientific writing is characterized by its clarity”, and that applies as well, I would say, when communicating with investors. I think you agree. Let’s discuss this more in class.

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  2. In general when I initiate the process of writing an essay there are always certain parts that appears to be great hurdles both in the beginning and until the very end of the appendix. However the main issue I have in mind is the structure of the essay which often is expected to follow a certain model, even though it might not fit the purpose as good as a more customized structure if one could chose for oneself. With reference to this structure-problem , my impression of Olle Bergmans slides is that the main purpose is to have the “customer” of the text in mind and to always be clear about what to deliver to this very customer. Even though this could be considered as a basic rule of thumb when writing, I would say that this is one of the most common failures, especially writing a group essay. From my experience, the group is often very orientated towards a structure so that everyone can adapt to it easily, but very little attention is given to the actual purpose of the text. However one thing that affects the outcome of the structure is the clarity and objectivity of the main parts of the assignment which eventually will form the product. This is very well put in the KI writing guide and could also improve the group performance since clarified content and objective conclusions will make it easier for a group to collaborate throughout the writing process.

    The conclusion from these thoughts could therefore be to focus more (atleast more than in the first draft) on the early process and to find a suitable structure for the readers, -the customers of our text to eventually be able to deliver a great product!

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  3. First of all, I believe the main issue of how our report lacked appeal was mostly by the lack of research. Not very surprising, this left our report with low substance and not convincing enough arguments. I believe our group was confused of what we were supposed to deliver, considering that we changed the content and focus between the first and the final presentation quite a lot. I suspect this change caused confusion in what to actually include in the report. Olle Bergman gives tips to avoid doing these kind of sloppy reports with some easy to use tools.

    For this time around, we can make use of some of these tools to improve our writing:
    – Asking ”why, why why?” to really dig deep into the topic.
    – The customer is the focus, thus define a target group, like a particular kind of investor in this setting. Even if it is an imaginable one for this task, it could make it easier to focus what arguments are important and what not to include. Why should an investor find this idea valuable?
    – Motivate and include convincing arguments as of why our team is the perfect one to do the idea we have come up with.
    – Be critical to the presented solution, and counter with arguments in how we have considered them to builds trustworthy text. Hungry, confident, but also humble entrepreneurs.
    – Take reference from written rhetorics (ethos , pathos, logos) and analyze if the report deliver this.

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  4. Extra assignment for seminar on 18th of April.
    Topic sentences
    This method enhanced the efficiency of our writing for the final report considerably. Due to the constraints regarding length, one of the biggest challenges were cramming all the information and details regarding our venture into the text while still making it able to sell the idea to potential investors. We used topic sentences first as a way to formulate the broad structure of the report, but also as a way to ensure ourselves that we captured all aspects we needed to capture. Once we were sure that we had covered everything, did we start to write the actual texts in each section. This helped us work efficiently, but also ensured us that we were not missing anything.
    Academic writing
    Some aspects from the tips regarding academic writing from KI were used in our final report, especially the parts regarding referencing and aiming to write as clearly as possible. Once again, the rather limited amount of words that were allowed in the final report made it even more important to be concise. But increased precision and concentration is also something that we thought potential investors would appreciate. While the structure of our report does not follow the typical academic structure that KI has outlined, several key aspects of it were incorporated as mentioned earlier. But the aim of the report is for an investor to buy the idea, and not for an opposition seminar to digest, and therefore the structure is slightly different in our report.

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  5. Topic Sentencing, I would argue, is a preamble to the more wider frame work of “tema-rema” as an approach to textual bindings. Whether it be semantic, structural, connotative or otherwise, it provides a useful tool to me as a writer. We start with the known and work towards the unknown and latch on to this new knowledge when we further down in the text do the same again.

    Tema-rema in that sense, is a framework that provide a crisp and clear framework for writing in general, regardless of whether it’s academic, investment related or otherwise prosaic.

    The academic framework of clarity, therefore, is powerful when writing investment related documents. We are able to reduce or descriptive wordings with adverbs and adjective and focus on the _core_ message of each sentence, topic and segment. It forces us to be specific, which has the “built in” power of providing credibility.

    Credibility is the absolute essence, in my opinion, of writing pitches and investment related documents. We needn’t embellish anything if the “fundamentals” are strong enough to enable a rational investment decision, and we shouldn’t defer to those strategies.

    In conclusion, I think that academic writing provides a framework that lets us “cut through the bullshit” and produce documents that are crisp, on-point, professional and therefore relevant to investors or interested parties. Topic sentencing is one of the academic frameworks that guides us in that direction, even if I personally think that tema-rema is more “covering”.

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