Pitching to an investor is not as simple as flicking through slides. There is no formula that is guaranteed to work every time, but there are acknowledged guidelines you can follow to increase your chances.
Use your time wisely
Allotting yourself a shorter time to pitch ensures you are concise with what you say. Long-winded explanations will lose your audience’s attention. Your presentation must leave enough time for questions afterwards, though you should aim to answer them before they are asked. Some investors may give you more time than you bargained for, they may give you less – have different lengths of your pitch prepared and deal with it accordingly.
You never want to appear flustered or rushed – they are investing in you just as much as they are investing in your idea. In their eyes, if you can’t manage to finish a pitch in the allotted time (and if you then proceed to panic), how are you supposed to weather the many more testing storms entrepreneurs inevitably face?
Tell a story
Everyone loves a good story, and if you are capable of telling one, you will engage your audience.
“You’ve got to tell a great story that investors connect to. Because we are all human and we like stories. So entrepreneurs that are story tellers will raise financing before the entrepreneur who isn’t,” says Eghosa Omoigui, founder and managing general partner of EchoVC Partners – a seed and early stage technology-focused venture capital fund.
Slides should be used to enhance the narrative, to convey the essence of your business (as the saying goes, it’s called PowerPoint not PowerStory).
Most experts recommend to having 12-15 slides. Captivate the audience, interact with them, while weaving in essential information. Lastly, be passionate, be enthusiastic – if you aren’t excited about your idea, why should they be?
“A lot of people come in and pitch and they’ve got these long business plans… And I tell them I don’t like to read these long business plans because they are not in your voice – I need to hear your plan in your voice… If you really cannot tell me your story in 12 slides or less then I am not investing in you,” notes Omoigui.
Summarise your investment proposal or business plan
Cover the ‘who, what, why, when and how’, and you will win.
Explain who you are, what the problem is, why it matters (why the solution is needed) and to whom, how your product or service works, and by when investors can expect results. A big part of a pitch is to also show where you are going and what you need, for example: We want to do X, we believe we can do it because of Y, we will beat competition by doing Z. Show them why you want to build your company around a product you love.
Be prepared for follow-up questions like: What is your marketing strategy and where are your market data? What makes this product unique? How large is your potential customer base? How are you going to acquire customers? What revenue model are you using? Who are you competing with now and who are possible entrants? Know your business like the back of your hand. Have a prototype or a demonstration of your product with you.
Omoigui stresses that you should do your homework. “I don’t like entrepreneurs that come in and pitch to us, and then I know the business better [than them]. That doesn’t work. The meeting I take as a learning experience for me – you need to be able to teach me and walk away.”
But don’t over-sell your business or lie. Be honest and transparent. Integrity is easily discerned and this isn’t their first time meeting an eager entrepreneur.
Leave your pride at the door
Entrepreneurs are inherently subject to dynamic environments (an investment pitch for instance), and being able to deal with them tactfully and strategically, are huge indicators of future success. Be flexible, be humble, be helpful. And if you don’t know the answer, promise to find out – and get back to them.