What every entrepreneur needs to know before making the big pitch to investors
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Entrepreneurs know how important investors can be. According to the 2019 State of Entrepreneurship Survey by the Kauffman Foundation, 83% of entrepreneurs do not access bank loans or venture capital, and 65% rely on personal and family savings for startup capital.
The right investors can provide much-needed funds and peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your business. The right investors also have a lot of experience and they can provide valuable advice.
But, your pitch to investors needs to be compelling and persuasive.
Fortunately, Lisa Wentz, public speaking coach, founder of the San Francisco Voice Center, and author of "Grace Under Pressure: a Masterclass in Public Speaking," can help you put your best foot forward. Wentz has worked with executives and managers at Fortune 500 companies such as Adobe, Google, Oracle, Salesforce, and Symantec.
Below, she provides several tips to help you deliver an irresistible pitch.
Know the tools that great speakers use to develop their skills
Great speakers vary their speed to match their content and intention. "Insert pauses before and after important statements," Wentz says. "Stress imagery words to invite the audience into the experience of the story you are telling."
Wentz says great speakers understand that they must set aside their egos for the greater good. "The most important thing in the room is the content, which lives on long after everyone else in the room is gone."
She recommends leading with an "a-ha" moment. "In your introduction, share the insight or catalyst that motivated you to start your company."
Know the questions, not just the answers
This entails the ability to anticipate what questions will come your way from a pitch or presentation, so you won’t be thrown off-guard. "Do research on your potential investors, ask your connections or someone else in the know what kinds of things they look for, and have your answers ready," Wentz says.
In addition to knowing the questions, you should also know the numbers. "Be prepared with the numbers that show why your company fills a need in the industry."
Don’t let pitch decks and slides ruin your presentation
These tools can help to enhance your presentation, but they can also ruin it — unnecessarily. "This should be the easiest part of a pitch, so hire the right person to create a beautiful deck," Wentz says. "We live in a visual culture, so make sure your deck uses color and composition effectively."
One thing you definitely shouldn’t do is create slides with a bunch of words and then spend your time reading the slides. "This will bore your audience and make it look like you’re reciting a report instead of pitching a company you are passionate about."
Don’t be deceived by your expertise
It’s more important to demonstrate that you can lead than to show that you’re an expert.
"An expert is someone a CEO can hire: think Steve Jobs versus Steve Wozniak in the early days of Apple," Wentz says. "As a leader, you must be able to address the needs of your employees, talk to the media, raise money, think big picture constantly, steer the ship, and inspire."
Know why you and your team are the best
Although your leadership ability is more important than your level of expertise, you need to show that you have a team of experts.
"Have an airtight case for why you and your team are best qualified to lead the way and why you are the right people to bring a product or service to the marketplace," Wentz says. So, you also need to know your competition, and be prepared to show how you’re better than them and how you can surpass them.
Do practice, don’t panic, don’t apologize
"Practicing your pitch helps you to perfect it, and also help you to build confidence." Practice in front of the mirror, with mentors, or with a coach. During the actual pitch, remain composed at all times.
If you skip something important, don’t panic. "Instead, return to it casually and say something like, ‘I’d like to expand on an earlier statement/section,’" Wentz advises.
Also, never apologize. "If you don’t have a well-constructed answer for a question, say, ‘We are gathering that data and will have an answer very soon,’" Wentz says.
Prepare physically as well
While preparing your pitch, you also need to prepare yourself. "Get plenty of sleep the night before, eat healthy, drink water, take deep, easy breaths," Wentz says. "Look like someone who can handle pressure with ease."
Treat investors like humans, not bank accounts
Although funding is important, don’t pressure yourself to raise a specific dollar amount, and don’t treat potential investors as purely funding sources.
"Remember that you are always building your network and forming relationships," Wentz advises. "Make the human connection with potential investors — show them that you interested in them as people."
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