Imagine this: They have finally called! Someone wants to hear your idea. Imagine, maybe even invest in it. Your mind starts creating exciting scenarios, wave of thrill and anticipation follows. At first, you cannot even believe your luck…after all, you came up with the idea while waiting for your pall Steve at that coffee place around the corner.
Half an hour and a dozen phone calls to friends and family later, it hits you – you actually need to talk to people. It’s not just anyone, but potential stakeholders and investors. How’s your pitch?
One too many people fail to present their ideas, their business, and even themselves. That’s a shame as I cannot even start to imagine how big is the number of ideas that went down the drain because the concept delivery was not good enough. They thought they could manage with content alone. Think again.
When it comes to pitching, delivery and perception is everything. Sometimes it takes only a couple of seconds to lose your audience. So allow me to let you in on three key points to have in mind that can turn the pitching game in your favor.1. Prepare or you-shall- not-pass.
Like in Monty Phyton and the Holy Grail, there are always gatekeepers to keep types like you away from the people with power and money. So do not expect that your pitch is a one size fits all. You need to adapt and tailor it in relation to the receiver. Let’s say, a “break the ice” joke about Germans can be amusing until you realize that the panel that you are standing in front of is comprised of Germans only.
My advice, know your audience. Before you present, do your homework – research and learn as much as you can about your prospective investors. Use Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. Do some social listening. Learn some quick lines with apps like Duolingo or Anki. It will certainly impress part of the audience. The more you know about your audience the better you can engage with them. Make the interaction more personal, it could make all the difference.2. Ask the problem question to your solution.
Instead of starting right ahead with what you do and what you try to promote, start with the problem that sparked your solution. Your goal is to pose a question that the other side will identify with and will create an engagement. For instance:
“Do you remember that thesis you wrote for your master’s and never used ever again? Shame, right?”,
And you wait for the “yes” that’s going follow soon after. Best part of it – they agree with you.3. The hook in.
Good job till now! Now you need to keep the engagement. The majority of VCs have a short attention span which makes keeping their attention from straying away both your top priority and your biggest challenge.
Most presentations are not brief and presenters lose their audience before getting to the point. In nine out of ten cases there is too much text that no one has the time or interest to go through.
The problem with too much text is that it takes too long to digest. Moreover, words do not leave room for interpretation as they are processed by our brains in a linear way. What you read is pretty much what you get.
So keep it short, relevant, to the point and most of all memorable. Using visuals is a great way to do that. As the majority of people are visual learners, a picture can say a (few) thousand words and be your best tool for maintaining a strong engagement. The power of visuals is that they evoke emotions, allow personal interpretation and most of all – foster the receiver’s involvement and learnings. After all, it is easier to relate to and remember images rather than bullet points. And if you still have doubts about what should the ratio between images and text in your pitch be, just keep in mind that our brains process images 60,000 times faster than they do text.
My last piece of advice – energy is contagious! Be authentic when you are communicating your message and share your enthusiasm. Convey your drive for making the business idea work and your proposal will become more appealing and compelling to the investor. Leverage your personal motivation and passion to succeed to make your case and increase the chance of a positive response. And on a personal note: before I do a pitch, I always go to the bathroom first and smile in the mirror. Many studies have shown people prefer a smiling face. When you have done so before, for example in the bathroom, you will be treated with more empathy than without the smile. So, smile now and be courageous!