A few months ago, I was at a San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange event about pitching to potential investors. The event revolved around a panel discussion. One of the panelists, Diane West, really commanded my attention. She’s the President of 2Connect, a company that helps people improve their presentation skills. Diane talked about the importance of speaking for entrepreneurs, specifically when delivering pitch presentations. She’s so right!
You can have the best company or the best idea ever, but if you’re not able to convince others of its greatness, you’re not going to get their attention or their money. A large part of Diane’s business is helping startup companies looking for investors with their slide decks. The words on the PowerPoint slides need to be compelling, but so does the person presenting the slides. Investors have limited time and resources – YOU as the presenter have to keep their attention. But how?
In addition to hitting all the necessary points in the PowerPoint presentation (problem to be solved, projected financials, estimated timeline, etc.), you have to make investors believe in you and your company. You do that by being confident and realistic in your message. People are attracted to confident people because confident people seem like they know what they’re talking about. And if you had millions of dollars, wouldn’t you feel more comfortable giving it to someone who seems knowledgeable? The confidence can’t border on arrogance, though. An audience can smell arrogance a mile away. One way to project arrogance is to disparage competitors during the pitch. Don’t do it! Let your idea or company stand on its own merits. Also make sure that your message is realistic. Are you asking for way more than is necessary? You’ll tune out the audience, taking you out of the running in a hurry.
You must also tell the right story to the right audience. Investors who typically invest in tech companies won’t likely be interested in a new toy idea. Research the investors’ current portfolio to find out if your idea would be a good fit. I worked in the medical device space. Organizations such as SDEE, DeviceAlliance and CONNECT are potential sources of investor information – at least in the San Diego area. I’m sure there are similar resources around the country.
When it comes to pitching, even if the last pitch didn’t go well, there’s always hope for the next one. Don’t stop trying. As long as you’re confident and realistic, and present to an appropriate audience, you have a great shot at succeeding.