Your pitch piece has gotten past the screeners and into the hands of a real investor, and he wants you to present it to him and his partners. He schedules a 45-minute meeting.
You have taken all the steps to this moment and they have worked.
• determining your investment needs and exit strategy
• creating your unique value proposition
• mastering its presentation in a 30-second sound bite with follow up success stories
• writing your 12-slide (or 3 page) pitch piece.
So, how do you present that pitch, standing in front of the folks who can sign a check? Some of my opinions are controversial, but they work.
Here is what you need to master:
1. Calm down. Slow down. You are talking to potential future partners, who will be with you for years, and will share in the wealth you will create with their help.
2. Take a power position, without ego, bragging or attitude.
3. Be confident and assertive and show them your commitment to your vision, and your rational approach to the challenges you will share. Investors call this the “passion of the entrepreneur” but it doesn’t have to be noisy.
4. Introduce yourself clearly – your name and your company’s name (so many founders rush this and make their listeners uncomfortable at the beginning, not knowing how to address you).
5. Do not present your slides. Do not offer handouts. Do your presentation on your feet and make them listen to you. You can send the deck or pass out a “leave-behind” document at the end of the meeting. The worst effect is to have them reading ahead of your presentation, not listening, and making conclusions before you have completed your pitch. With written material, they will do just that.
6. Ignore that you have a meeting scheduled to last 45 minutes. You will get 3 to 6 minutes before you are interrupted with questions.
7. You have prepared an overview in 12 slides (which you are not sharing). This means you should get through the value proposition, the ROI to the investors, and the request for funds in the first 3 minutes.
8. Yes, I want you to define what stage you are in (concept, prototype, beta, launch, initial revenue, etc.), how much you capital you are seeking, at what valuation, no later than slide 3 or minute 3. Why? Because investors are dealmakers, and they aren’t listening until you tell them the deal terms you are seeking. When this comes at the end, they have been waiting for it and not listening, and it seems as if you have your hand out for the money. So tell them up front, and then defend your position. I know this isn’t what you’ve been told to do, but it is effective.
9. Define the valuation you are seeking (this means you have done your homework on comparable companies and their similar-stage investments, as well as successful exits in your market space.) Use this information when questioned, but not when presenting. Wait to be asked.
10. Now that you have offered the value proposition, the ROI and the request for capital at a preferred valuation, you have a couple more minutes to prove why you believe this is an opportunity for their participation.
11. Use positive calm language and attitude.
12. Do not apologize for your request for funds. Your position is that your company is an opportunity they are looking to fit into their portfolio.
13. Be prepared for questions on every aspect of your business: its market sector and size, its scalability, your strategy for reaching that scalability and its ROI, advantages against competitors, defensibility, management expertise, comparable valuations and exits, all of it. Most of your meeting will be answering the investors’ questions, not presenting. Abandon your presentation as soon as the investors indicate they want to talk. Their engagement with you is more important than your carefully crafted deck. They will look at your deck if you pass the talk-test.
14. When the questioning begins, slow down again, and calm down. This is your moment to create an authentic connection with these potential partners, and to abandon your position as a guy trying to sell them something. Settle in and talk to them as if you are about to marry their child.
And, by the way, practice at pitching makes you more comfortable, so do as much of it as you can. Have someone experienced train you or test you again and again, asking the questions an investor would ask.
Practice and experience build confidence, and that is the secret sauce to success. Everybody wants to get on the magic carpet ride of the one who looks like he will succeed.