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The unorthodox method a CEO used to win a major ASX deal

  • Written by a contributor

The $120 million dollar pitch:


When Dominic Drenen, now the Managing Director of Sumo Energy, was preparing to deliver a presentation to potential investors in April 2017 that would result in a $120million acquisition, he turned to a rather unorthodox mode of preparation.


While most people preparing to publicly float a company get into fine detail when presenting the value proposition of a business for market, Mr Drenen took a slight detour.


"At the time, I was CEO at Click Energy and we were about to embark on a dual-track process," recalls Mr Drenen, "so, before presenting to potential investors, I wanted to make sure I was well prepared so I could increase our chances of success.” 


Mr Drenen was across the detail but had anxiety about whether or not his presentation could match the broader vision of the business and instill confidence in potential investors. So instead of getting into the weeds and worrying about the fine detail, he employed a media trainer with an unorthodox bent to help sell the bigger vision.


Tony Nicholls, experienced broadcast journalist at 10, ABC, and SBS, turned media trainer, adopts a philosophy and techniques that he gained through decades of meditation and time spent in ‘silent retreats’ in India - Bodh Gaya, in fact, the very place the Buddha became enlightened.


It is this philosophy of taking yourself out of the narrative, of removing the 'I', which Mr Nicholls has successfully mainstreamed and employs when training CEOs and spokespeople across a range of businesses, peak bodies, and not-for-profits.


“The ego is the enemy - the more a speaker focuses on themselves during a presentation, the less connected they will ever be with an audience,” said Mr Nicholls.


“When you think about it, focusing on yourself, is the very source of the nerves that can counteract a successful presentation.


“Instead, a better approach is to focus on your audience completely, even to the point where you almost entirely lose your sense of self. And, in that state, it’s impossible to be nervous.”


When Mr Nicholls suggested to Mr Drenen that he focus on what the potential $120million deal would mean to people, and how it could help Australian families, it made all the difference. 


"I'd had some experience in public speaking but nothing significant, and recognised it was an area I needed to improve in, so I approached Tony, even though it wasn't the media I was about to speak to,” Mr Drenen said. 


"The transaction was a success and we sold Click Energy to Amaysim for $120million,” says Mr Drenen, “Tony’s help was unorthodox but really invaluable because I was able to put some separation between the business I was describing, and my own ego.”


Having worked in the coalface of the communications industry for over ten years, nowadays Mr Nicholls assists people and companies of all sizes and sectors to improve their public speaking skills.


“Everyone has this underlying level of anxiety these days, courtesy of COVID,” said Mr Nicholls, “and we’re seeing that with CEOs at the lectern.” 


“With the economy in recession, and industries disrupted potentially forever, nailing your presentation has never been more important. 


“If business leaders are looking for the X factor in their presentations, they should instead try looking for the ‘zen factor’. That’s the missing component to pulling together multi-million dollar presentations.” 

It's a sentiment Warren Steinicke from the CEO Institute agrees with.

“The CEO Institute was established to help business leaders connect with peers and share skills, insight and experience through an exclusive peer support network,” says Mr Steinicke.


“I deal with a large amount of CEOs in high-powered positions and have noticed that many hold concerns when it comes to speaking to the media.”

To date, Tony Nicholls has assisted hundreds of business leaders prepare for successful investor presentations like Click Energy. He is the founder of Good Talent Media, which is a full-service agency offering public relations, crisis media management, political lobbying alongside media training. 


The agency’s staff roster has tripled this year to meet the demands of 30 new clients onboarding since January 2020, making Good Talent Media one of, if not the, fastest growing agency in Australia. 


“CEOs are good at being CEOs, but presenting can be tough for them. By adding a little bit of zen to their method, they drop the corporate barriers, tap into their true nature and truly connect with audiences. 


“The most satisfying part of my working day is when clients text me after their presentations and say 'I nailed it!’”


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