Over 10,000 pitches and counting. Several months ago, someone asked me how many entrepreneur pitches I’ve listened to in my career. With more than thirty years in the private equity and angel investing space, I can confidently tally over 10,000 formal and informal presentations. Over this time, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. To prevent your presentation from becoming a statistic in someone’s ‘ugly’ count, I recommend the following five principles to engage an investor.
Know Your Audience. It is critical that you do your homework. Know who will be in the room- what kind of investors, what type of companies they usually invest, what stage, and how much risk do they typically take. A good source of information can be located on their website, press releases, and social media. Some organizations may allow you to attend a meeting in advance of being placed on a meeting agenda to pitch. As a guest, you have a great opportunity to speak to investors and get an understanding of their meeting flow.
Know The Meeting Culture. Find out the format and tone for the meeting. Are there a series of formal presentations? Ensure that your presentation is in the format that is needed.
Know if you are expected to bring copies of your presentation. Are you permitted to bring members from your team? Is there networking in advance and after presentations? Is the dress code formal or business casual? It is always acceptable to over-dress and never acceptable to be under-dressed. Most organizations have a contact person for entrepreneurs. If they don’t offer this level of instruction, ASK the questions. It is your job to meet the standard.
Know What An Investor Needs. I am an advocate of Guy Kawasaki’s approach, which is quite simple. He contends that you only need 10 strategic slides in your deck. You only need 20 minutes to deliver a compelling summary, and you should never use less than a 30pt font on your slides. Your intention is to stimulate interest, not explain every working part of your business. Do not over complicate your story, charts, or graphs. Avoid using industry terminology and acronyms that may not be familiar with everyone in the room. Avoid using descriptions that cannot be substantiated, like cutting-edge, groundbreaking, or world-class. When building your financial and valuation models, do not use sweeping assumptions that have no situational basis. Finally, timing is everything. You must be able to deliver your presentation within the assigned time. Do not assume that you will be provided extra time to finish. What will happen is that the investors will only see part of your pitch. Review Kawasaki’s 10:20:30 Pitch Template
Know Your Facts Backward and Forward. Anticipate investors’ questions. Your slides have provided a high-level view. An interested investor will want to delve into the data. You need to be able to answer their specific question succinctly. The answer should be short and to the point. Remember, proper sentences do not begin with ‘So.’ Nothing turns off an audience quicker than to have every sentence start with the same adverb. Conversely, do not begin your response with ‘that was a great question.’ Of course, they believe it is a good question; otherwise, they would not have asked it. At the same time, no one expects you to have every scrap of knowledge at your fingertips. If you do not have the information, acknowledge it and let them know that you will get back to them.
Know How To Savor The Moment. Raising funds is stressful, and you can’t help but be a bit nervous when pitching, however, savor in the fact that you are pitching about a passion project that you have enthusiastically pursued. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but pause to remember that you have prepared, you believe in the opportunity, and convey that you will be a winner. Your energy and confidence will translate into your presentation.