Pitching a startup to a roomful of investors takes nerve, honesty, vision, research and showmanship. But most of all you have to have a good idea and practice your pitch.
We’ll explore some of the best ways to convey an excellent pitch to your audience of investors - what you should prepare for, and what the investors expect to hear. We'll also tell you how to play devil's advocate in picking your pitch apart to find holes and inconsistencies in your presentation.
This last technique will prepare you for any questions your audience may have and provide you with a solid reputation that you have a firm grasp on every facet of your idea.
You should approach an investor’s meeting and pitch with the same seriousness in which you approach a desired job interview. Like a job interview, the impression you give in an investor’s meeting may well be the key to your future.
But unlike a job interview, the performance you give can have consequences to all the people working in your startup as well. This is why you should spend a lot of time doing research on the investors themselves and what they have invested in in the past. You should also spend a lot of time practising your pitch and be prepared for any and all questions.
Your pitch should be accompanied by visuals such as a PowerPoint presentation that add to and illustrate the points you’re making.
The presentation should also be linear to provide the clearest explanation. It should tell a story. Stories go from ‘A’ to ‘B’ to ‘C’. Once you’ve covered one point, move on to the next. Never backtrack to clarify a point. This tends to confuse people who are following the narrative. If an investor has a question, kindly ask them to hold the question until the end of the presentation.
Sugar-coating an idea or the progress your startup has realised in developing your idea, tends to paint you into a corner. Every human is fallible. If you waltz into a meeting and start proclaiming the unbelievable progress your startup is enjoying in the development of your idea, it will appear to the investors as unbelievable as well. Don’t set yourself up for failure by overstating yourself or your startup. Facts and claims can and will be checked.
You should consider investors as people who have infinitely more experience in your field. Otherwise, they wouldn't be interested in investing in your startup. These people are there to help you if they think your idea is valid. You’ll make the decision easier for them by being totally honest from the start.
Once you’ve finalised the structure of your pitch, work with a colleague to try and identify any holes or inconsistencies in the pitch by adopting the role of devil’s advocate. Have the colleague learn the pitch as well and present it back to you.
Often, hearing a pitch delivered by someone else is enough to recognise an error in your logic about some facet of your presentation. It allows you to fix the hole before your investors can put you on the spot by questioning you about it.
A little showmanship, if you’re comfortable speaking in front of people, never hurts. It can break any tension and can illustrate confidence in your idea. But if you’re new and inexperienced in talking in front of people, a little showmanship can backfire badly into melodrama.
Melodrama is forced showmanship. It tends to make people uncomfortable because it’s a patently false display meant to curry favour.
If you’re new or not yet used to presenting to an audience, the best advice is to forget any attempts at showmanship and simply be yourself. This goes back to starting from a position of honesty.
Just because you get turned down in meeting after meeting, doesn’t mean that your idea or your presentation is necessarily flawed. There may be certain market conditions or other facets of the industry your idea is targeting that preclude investment at the time you make your presentation.
The more you present your idea, the more feedback you’ll get. The more feedback you get, the more knowledgeable you’ll become in ways your presentation can be adjusted in your startup’s favour.
If both you and your colleagues feel that you have arrived at an honest presentation that thoroughly explains your idea and its development, stick with it. It may be just a matter of time. Meanwhile, you'll only get better at speaking in front of an audience and delivering your presentation.