Aaron Levie of Box: How to Wow a Crowd
BY Burt Helm
The founder of Box, and former magician, explains how he grabs his audience's attention and builds suspense.
I was a professional magician in middle school and high school, the same time I was doing a lot of computer stuff. I could make people disappear in boxes. I could have an audience member select a card and then find it inside an orange.
In the sense that magic is an illusion, it’s not a great analogy to business. But doing magic tricks and making business presentations do have some things in common. The art of magic is about getting people engaged in some kind of story. Roughly speaking, when you see a magic trick, the magician spends 80 percent to 90 percent of the time just getting you engaged and building suspense.
Only 10 percent or 20 percent of the time is spent on showing you the truly uncanny part of the trick. It’s about capturing your audience members’ imaginations, and then letting them run wild about what’s possible in the world.
If you watch a product launch by Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, or Jack Dorsey, you’ll see a lot of those same techniques. They spend 70 percent of their time just building up the story line behind the product before giving you a glimpse of it.
At Box, I get excited about taking a complicated idea like cloud storage, making it much simpler and more elegant, and then letting people run with it. As an entrepreneur, if you’re acknowledging only facts and information and the here and now, then you’re not doing your job.
BURT HELM is a senior writer for Inc. magazine. In 2013, his Inc. feature “After the Squeeze” was awarded the Stephen Barr Award for Feature writing, and his stories “After the Squeeze,” and “Turntable.fm: Where Did the Love Go?” received awards from Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Prior to Inc. he worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News and a department editor for Businessweek. He is a graduate of Yale University with a double major in Physics and English. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. @burthelm